What is the StarLink Internet Project?

Starlink is the name of a satellite constellation development project currently under the development of SpaceX, to provide low-cost, high-performance internet to remote locations. It aims to implement a new spaceborne Internet communication system with speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s, with the lowest latency between 25 ms and 35 ms. It is a large scale project, more like a mega constellation as spaces are sending up to 12,000 satellites in the Earth’s orbit.

Currently, until the 7th of August 2020, SpaceX has launched 597 Starlink satellites. They plan to launch 60 more satellites every two weeks in 2020. The company has reached the minimum number of satellites up in the space, and operational for the “minor” internet coverage as said by Musk which is 400 spacecraft. They will also be able to provide “moderate” coverage after about 800 satellites became operational.

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What was the Initial Plan?

SpaceX’s satellite internet proposal was announced in January 2015 although initially no name was given to it. The CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk revealed that the company plans to place about 4,000 satellites in the planets orbit and have already filed documents with international regulators. Elon Musk said while revealing the project,

“We’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the internet in space”.

In 2018, SpaceX launched its first two Starlink test craft, named TinTinA and TinTinB, and it was a successful mission. Later by 23rd May 2019, a total of 60 Starlink satellites were launched into the low Earth orbit successfully.

How do Starlink satellites work?

Starlink satellites roughly the size of a table and each weighs 500 lbs. (227 kilograms), according to Sky & Telescope magazine. These satellites are placed in the low Earth orbit 550 kilometers (340 mi)- low enough to ensure the satellites re-enter the atmosphere in a shorter time in case of failure and also to reduce latency and use lasers to boost the internet speeds. Starlink’s satellites will work by beaming an internet signal directly to gateway or user terminal on Earth through space rather than sending internet signals through electric cables, which needs large infrastructure to be physically laid down to reach the remote areas. These signals will be transferred through the vacuum of space, where it’s speed is 47% faster than the fiber optic cable.

Aims Of Starlink Satellite Project

Elon Musk’s commonly SpaceX initiated this mega constellation project of Starlink satellites to help fill the connectivity gap between the urban and rural areas, by providing a reliable, high-speed internet coverage in both the areas. Currently, in most parts of the world, rural areas are facing challenges in terms of internet connectivity due to the high cost of infrastructure and lack of development. However, this project aims for global broadband service to the undeserved areas, where it might not be possible to lay down the optic fiber cables, as well as provide competitively priced service to urban areas by late 2021 or 2022. These satellites generate huge amounts of data, more than 5TB a day of data.

Controversy

Astronomers fear that SpaceX’s bright satellites could outshine the stars, and can block the view of astronomers by creating a continuous streak of light across a telescope’s long-exposure images of the sky. To this criticism, Elon Musk has promised to find a solution to this problem. In one of the recent batches, a satellite called DarkSat was painted in an experimental partially black coating to reduce its brightness. However, the astronomers still fear that a large of satellites might create a false impression as if skies are swarming with false stars.

Samreen Khan

Writer and Blogger

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