SpaceX is Rapidly Deploying the StarLink Broadband Internet Satellites
In the latter part of 2020, SpaceX Starlink satellite broadband internet service offered invitations to residents in the northern parts of the U.S. and some southern parts of Canada to be beta testers.
This is just the beginning, but the advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation are many. In the beginning, the SpaceX Starlink satellite beta testing area was limited to areas between 45 and 53 degrees latitude. The Starlink beta is currently being expanded to a larger area.
As of January 2020, SpaceX has around 100 Starlink satellites in orbit. During the rest of 2020, they launched 12 missions sending the number of satellites in orbit to 895 that are operational. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has given Elon Musk and SpaceX the approval to launch as many as 11,943 broadband satellites.
Scroll down here for latest Starlink news and developments
What is SpaceX StarLink Broadband Internet Service?
Developed by SpaceX, Starlink is a company in the process of creating a broadband satellite internet service. The service is referred to as “StarLink”. The concept of this service will allow people in rural and undeveloped parts of the world to have access to reliable broadband internet service.
By the year 2022, the Starlink satellite broadband service should be available to most of the world. The Starlink service will offer faster connection speeds with lower latency than existing established satellite services. Starlink satellites use a low-earth orbit.
What is a low-earth orbit (LEO)?
From 110 to 1200 (roughly) miles from Earth is a region that is considered the closest orbit to the Earth. This the region that most space missions are executed in. Missions like the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station utilize these orbits.
Starlinks satellites are in this orbit as opposed to most communication satellites that are in a higher orbit, about 23,000 miles above Earth’s surface. Here are four different orbits used:
- Moon’s Orbit – Lunar Orbit — Located 236,606 miles above sea level
- High-Earth Orbit — 23,000 miles above sea level
- Mid-Earth Orbit — Between 1200 and 22,000 miles above sea level
- Low-Earth Orbit — Between 180 and 1240 miles above sea level
One of the advantages of SpaceX Starlink Satellite service is that it uses Earth’s low-orbit. Since the Starlink satellites are closer to Earth the communication signals take less time to get to and back from the satellite. This results in lower latency, overcoming the biggest problem with typical satellite communications.
Starlink is Elon Musk’s next big thing
Elon Musk has experienced great success when predicting trends and making investments. He was part of PayPal in 1999. PayPal currently has 286 million users. PayPal was acquired from Elon and his partners for $1.5 million.
He then started a company called Tesla. By the end of 2020 Tesla was bigger than Gm, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler combined. The success of Tesla has increased his net worth by adding about $57 billion.
And, on May 30th of 2020 another company created by Elon, SpaceX, became the first private company on the globe to launch American astronauts into space. He has been awarded huge contracts from the U.S. Government for future launches.
Now, Elon is going “all-in” again. The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation is definitely his next big thing. How does he predict and create these profitable markets? He uses a proven 3-step process. It’s called “Creative Destruction”.
Elon Musk demonstrates “Creative Destruction” again
The term “Creative Destruction” may be familiar to some people. It a 3-step process. It’s a process that continues to build Elon’s fortune.
- First — Elon finds a humongous size industry that has been around a long time.
- Second — He puts radical innovations to work and develops new technologies, methods, and implementation techniques that will make the old industry obsolete.
- Third — He puts his technologies to use. He flips the switch on the new tech, usually proving some major players wrong. In a short time, there are masses of people lining up to buy the product or service.
The advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation will prove to be the driving factor in this disruptive technology.
High-Speed Internet Access Across the Globe
Starlink is rapidly expanding their constellation of Starlink broadband satellites. They hope to provide near global coverage by 2020. Currently they are providing their broadband Starlink satellite internet service in parts of North America and Canada.
There are expectations that the Starlink service will surpass the speeds of existing satellite communications services, and provide much lower latency. Latency has been the main disadvantage of existing providers.
The FCC tells SpaceX it can deploy up to 11,943 broadband satellites
In November 2018, the FCC authorized SpaceX to deploy 11,943 broadband satellites into Earth orbit. Approximately 7,500 of these satellites will be at a very-low Earth orbit (about 200 miles above sea-level). The lower orbit will lower latency and increase the capacity of the constellation. That’s one of the big advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite deployments. Those satellites will operate in the 40GHz range for download, and at the 50GHz range for upload transmissions.
SpaceX StarLink has the go-ahead for 1 million U.S. ground installations
The advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation will be realized at first by residents of North America. The FCC has granted SpaceX Starlink permission to deploy up to one million U.S. ground satellite systems. The entire network is easily scalable and a global presence will be felt by 2022.
The Main Advantages of the SpaceX StarLink Satellite Constellation
One of the main advantages is global broadband availability. Broadband Internet will be available in areas that are remote and scattered. SpaceX Starlink will offer highspeed broadband along with exceptionally low latency, a characteristic that is very important in applications like financial management.
Satellite constellations are important to humanity. Starlink will offer additional safety globally by being used for weather predictions and other useful practices. It will enable a more connected world while providing better earth observation, communication, and navigation capabilities.
Although the pricing per ground station (initial setup and monthly fee) will not be low enough to call it cheap, it will be the best option, by far for many businesses and private residents. Thousand acre far4ms in remote areas will benefit from the service.
Video: Real-Engineering – Why SpaceX is Making StarLink
The Challenges – SpaceX StarLink Satellites
As with any ambitious project as complex and massive as Starlink there will be challenges that must be overcome. The technology is now proven and it’s realized by top professionals that the concept will work. There are however two main concerns that must be addressed.
Could SpaceX Cause excessive space junk?
Space junk is already a huge problem. The problem is getting bigger. Space junk mostly consists of man-made stuff. there are hundreds of thousands of objects in low Earth orbit. This is not a new problem. In 2009 a U.S. communication satellite collided with an inactive Russian satellite. The two collide at more than 22,000 miles per hour, resulting in thousands of pieces of debris, more space junk.
Currently, there are 23,000 man-made fragments larger than 4 inches across that are being tracked in orbit. Those are the pieces of debris that are large enough to track. It’s estimated that as many as 500,000 pieces between one half and 4 inches in size are in orbit. This debris is a problem. This debris is a threat to the International Space Station, satellites, space telescopes, and other useful objects in orbit.
The first group of Starlink satellites launched by SpaceX had a fail rate of 5%. That means that 1 in 20 satellites failed to properly operate after being launched. At low orbits the dead satellites will naturally deorbit and burn up when re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. At a slighter higher orbit of 240 miles above sea level it could take 5 or more years for the satellites to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.
SpaceX is working on this issue and have some safety measures in place. It will be a matter of time before we know the full detrimental effects of these dead satellites. and, to be noted, operational satellites will be able to use collision avoidance technologies.
Will Light reflecting off SpaceX StarLink satellites hamper astronomers
Here’s the second issue that must be overcome. Since the first launches of Starlink satellites astronomers have raised multiple concerns about the light reflecting off the satellites. At this time there were only 120 satellites in orbit. Eventually, the network may consist of over 40,000 satellites.
The concerns are addressing the astronomers’ ability to mitigate the reflections of the satellites. Just as we need almost total darkness to get a good view of the stars with our naked eyes, astronomers required even more darkness.
SpaceX and the Starlink project are experimenting with different techniques to minimize the problem that is affecting the astronomers ability to view the universe.
Did Starlink satellites interfere with the observation of the NEOWISE Comet?
While using The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope Nasa discovered a new comet. The discovery was made in the early part of 2020. Already by then there were hundreds of Starlink satellites in low-earth orbit.
During one photographer’s effort to take a time-lapse photo of the comet known as NEOWISE, there was a problem. The reflection from the hundreds of Starlink satellites made taking the photo nearly impossible. The satellites were as prominent in the photo as the comet.
The following is a tweet posted July 22, 2020 by Julien
While this issue is being addressed by SpaceX and the Starlink team, astronomers are sure the solution will be sufficient to gain their night skies back. Currently there are numerous observatories being hampered by the light being reflected by the satellites. Time will tell if any remedy will work well enough to appease the astronomy community.
More Facts About SpaceX StarLink Satellite Constellation
- Starlink Satellites are Compact — They have less mass, each satellite only weighing roughly 575 pounds. They have a flat-panel design that allows efficient storage during SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches. The satellite is about the size of an average refrigerator.
- Phased Array Antennas — The Starlink satellites have four powerful phased array antennas. They are very efficient and help to meet high capacity requirements.
- Simplified Solar Array — The solar cells in the single array are standardized. They are easily manufactured and their simple design allows for easy integration.
- Ion Thrusters — We’re talking Krypton here. The super-efficient ion thrusters on the Starlink satellites are powered by Krypton. Starlink satellites are the first spacecraft to use Kryton propulsion. It works with collision avoidance and can adjust the altitude of the satellite’s orbit. The Ion thrusters also can initiate a deorbit routine.
- Custom Navigation Capabilities — Not only does this feature allow the satellite to optimize its altitude but helps to enable precision placement of broadband throughput. In the future, the “Star Tracker” guidance system may be used to offer extremely accurate GPS coordinates.
- Collision Avoidance — It’s autonomous, using inputs from the Department of Defense debris tracking system the Starlink satellites can initiate evasive maneuvers. The system also can prevent collisions with other Starlink satellites during deployment and future maneuvers.
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Constellation News Beyond 2020
The Starlink Project by SpaceX achieved great success in 2020. It was a record year for launches. The Starlink project began beta-testing while launching more than 800 satellites.
The year 2021 is seeing the expansion of the SpaceX Starlink constellation. The constellation is bringing satellite Internet service to the British Isles, Europe, and even the North Pole. Reachin out to remote parts of the glode is one of the advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation.
The mission carried 133 government and commercial spacecraft. There were orbital transfer vehicles, microsats, and Cubesats. In addition there 10 Starlink Satellites onboard. This SpaceX launch deployed the most spacecraft ever on a single mission. This is an example of one of the many advantages of the SpaceX Starlink program.
The Starlink satellites aboard this mission were the first in the constellation to deploy to a polar orbit. A Polar Orbit (PO) is an orbit in which a satellite passes above or nearly above Earth’s North and South poles on each revolution. It has an inclination of 90 degrees (or very close to 90) to the equator.
Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship, stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Another batch of 60 Starlink satellites was launched from Kennedy Space Center’s LC-39A launch facility. The first stage ASDS landed successfully on ‘Just Read The Instructions”, the recovery barge.
The winds out at sea were higher than any winds on previous landings, testing the capabilities of the equipment. This was the 17th Starlink mission and the first of 2021.
The Falcon 9 first stage was designed with a lifecycle of 10 or more missions, with minimul maintainence between missions. The Falcon 9 first stage rocket booster supporting this mission previously flew on seven other missions:
- The SXM-7 mission in December 2020,
- Launch of the RADARSAT Constellation Mission in June 2019,
- launch of Crew Dragon’s first demonstration mission in March 2019,
- and Four other Starlink missions.
One half of Falcon 9’s fairing previously supported a Starlink mission and the other previously supported two.
Starlink announces they have been awarded an operating license for the U.K. Hundreds of installation kits have been shipped to Beta-testers. The cost of the starter kits is running 20% higher than the cost for the U.S counterparts. Subscription services are also higher, an additional £84 ($120) for a monthly subscription.
Beta testers can expect download speeds of 50 to 150 Mbps. The speeds are not as fast as the what beta-testers in the U.S are experiencing, but a big improvement over other existing options.
A beta-tester in Denmark has reported download speeds of 85Mbps, compared to the 0.5Mbps his former service offered. That’s 1700% faster downloads.
That’s another one of the big advantages of the SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation.
Read about How 5G is changing the VA
Featured image by BRGFX
Updated 01/25/2021 by Kirby Allen