Starlink, the SpaceX megaconstellation of 12,000 small satellites slammed by astronomers, will serve as the backbone for a future “space internet” network linking the Earth to Mars.

CEO Elon Musk said he also plans to deploy a “Martian internet,” which will see SpaceX satellites orbiting the Red Planet, for the first human colonists on Mars. Martian colonists will eventually need their own internet because a signal from Earth to Mars will take anywhere from four to 24 minutes to complete depending on Mars’ distance from the Earth.

Musk plans to land the first humans on Mars, and establish the first human colony on this distant planet by the decade of the 2030s.

There are obviously no fiber optics or wires or anything on Mars, he said before an audience that attended a symposium in Seattle about the next-generation space internet initiative.

“We could use the Starlink structure and leverage it to put an internet system on Mars,” he pointed out. “We are going to need high bandwidth communications between Earth and Mars and the Starlink system will provide this.”

Starlink is a megaconstellation that will form the backbone of a new space-based internet communications system. The first 60 satellites of this massive megaconstellation that will eventually consist of nearly 12,000 satellites was orbited on May 23. Commercial operations should begin in 2020.

Astronomers, however, are complaining this early that the first 60 satellites are already degrading their observations of the Universe. They also warn that adding 12,000 more satellites will greatly ruin future observations made from the Earth.

Mars at Ls 357°: Tharsis
These aerogel sheets work by mimicking the greenhouse effect. On Earth, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide cause global warming by trapping energy from the sun. Pictured is planet Mars. NASA/JPL/Malin Space Science Systems

SpaceX’s Martian internet will also enable a global Mars GPS system that will assist colonists in exploring the Red Planet. It will also transmit instant weather reports, and help track the deadly and massive dust storms that constantly blanket the planet in lethal dust.

“Mars is actually a comparatively easy place to establish a local internet because you wouldn't have to be living everywhere on Mars,” said Musk.

“So you really just need maybe four satellites to have global coverage because of how sparse that civilization will be on Mars.

“You would then need some relay satellites to get (data) back to Earth, particularly when Mars is on the other side of the Sun. You need to sort of bounce it over a relay satellite. You couldn't communicate directly with Mars from Earth."