Starlink by SpaceX: A New-Era Satellite Internet Is Coming Soon
Have you ever thought of accessing the Internet from a deep forest or the highest mountains? Starlink ‒ the network of satellites developed by SpaceX ‒ is designed to cover this need and deliver the web connection to even the most remote locations. 60 prototypes were already launched in May 2019, in 2021, 1730+ of them were already up, and others are coming soon. Elon Musk hopes to have 42.000 items in this future giant constellation.
The project was announced back in 2015. Even without a name, the company filed all the necessary documents with regulators to launch 4.000 satellites to Earth orbit. Elon Musk announced that the company is building something more than a common Internet in space.
The U.S.FCC (Federal Communications Commission) permitted the launch of 12.000 satellites. Later, with other regulators, this number was increased and 30.000 more items were allowed to fly in space.
To see how impressive these numbers are, consider these stats:
- There are 4.300 active satellites in Earth orbit now.
- 11.670 artificial satellites were launched throughout the entire history.
In February 2018, SpaceX started with two Starlink crafts ‒ TinTinA & TinTinB. After everything went smoothly, the company launched 60 items in May 2019. Now they are floating at an altitude of 550 kilometers so that they can be pulled down to our planet and not become another portion of space junk.
How Does Starlink Work?
In fact, this system of satellites is not as big as we may consider. It weighs 260 kilograms and its size is no larger than an average table. Instead of transmitting the Internet through physical cables, these crafts cope with this task through a space vacuum, and it takes them 47% less time!
Also, having these small transmitters above Earth makes it possible to reach even extreme places, where fiber-optic cables are almost impossible to lay down. They are close enough to the planet to carry and deliver any amount of information to just anywhere!
Elon Musk states that Starlink will provide working Internet coverage once the minimum of 400 satellites are up. When there are 800 or more of them, the connection will be more stable.
In May 2021, SpaceX sent 1730+ satellites to the sky. The beta-test program is in progress now, so it’s just a matter of time when all the farthest corners of our planet will be connected.
However, if you’re going to search for how to connect to Starlink to test it now, we have some bad news for you… Only owners of special kits by SpaceX can connect. These kits contain a Wi-Fi router, a satellite dish with a tripod, a power supply, and cables. Nevertheless, the official website says that there is a chance to get one! Type your home address in the line and determine whether your area is included in the coverage territory.
Sure, There Are Controversies
While the community of astronomists was amused by the brightness of the satellite chain, some of them are skeptical. Why? It’s simple. This new artificial constellation may interfere with other space observations. Scientists believe that images from sensitive telescopes might be affected, as well as radio signals caught by antennas might not be as usual anymore.
Here’s a quote from the IAU (International Astronomical Union):
“Satellite constellations can pose a significant or debilitating threat to important existing and future astronomical infrastructures, and we urge their designers and deployers as well as policy-makers to work with the astronomical community in a concerted effort to analyze and understand the impact of satellite constellations.”
Also, there is a threat of collision of Starlink with other spacecraft. It’s a problem even today when there are only 60 artificial satellites. The ESA (European Space Agency) has already reported a possible issue when their Aeolus was sent into space and barely dodged a collision with the Starlink 44. If there are more of them, the issue may be unavoidable.
Future Plans of SpaceX
The company is already working on minimizing the impact of its artificial constellation. The C-Suite is ready to hold a constructive dialog with astronomers and acknowledges possible problems.
As for actions taken, SpaceX has already launched sport visors for their satellites to make them not so bright and not to inadvertently alter telescope data.
There are a handful of things to negotiate about and to fulfill to make national space agencies and private companies work in synergy. Anyway, we hope that their cooperation will lead us to a better world, with at least a fast Internet connection anywhere!