The Future Of the Internet in Constellations
Housed out of a development facility in Washington, Starlink is a satellite internet constellation being designed by SpaceX. The constellation will provide satellite internet access with thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). These satellites come with multipurpose applications, including commercial, military, scientific, and exploration.
Elon Musk recently revealed Starlink has over 10,000 beta users in the US and Canada. Not limited by ground structures, it sounds like the ideal choice for connecting rural and underdeveloped areas to the rest of the world.
How Does Starlink Work?
Starlink’s competitive pricing for the state-of-the-art technology it offers contributes to it being a good choice for the urban user. The initiative focuses on low altitudes to provide low-latency broadband to consumers. Whilst doing so, it allows broadcasts to take place at reduced power levels and radio interference.
The satellites employ optical inter-satellite links (OISL), which combine high data rates with durable performance. The project can also operate in high-frequency bands over 24GHz. With steerable earth station transmit antennas, SpaceX also guarantees a wider geographic impact.
The Starlink satellites also use Hall-effect thrusters (HET) with krypton gas to operate against. HETs, offer the significant advantage of a simpler structure and no space charge limitations.
What Starlink Has to Offer
The mass-produced satellites that make up the Starlink constellation function in collaboration with ground transceivers. Placed closer to the Earth, these satellites rely on lasers to offer high speeds. With an initial promise of download speeds between 50-150 Mbps, it is now offering 160Mbps in its beta-tests. This constitutes speed 95% more than most US internet service providers.
The project is still in its beta phase and is only available in selected regions of the US and Canada. The Starlink kit includes a user terminal and mounting tripod alongside a Wi-Fi router. Furthermore, the purchase will cost an upfront fee of $499 and a monthly cost of $99.
What to Expect In The Future
Since its first launch in May 2019, SpaceX has launched 1,035 satellites for the Starlink constellation. With operations underway in the UK, Starlink expects to begin operations in Europe soon. It is also predicted that its coverage will reach India by the middle of 2021. Ultimately, it aims to offer near-global coverage by the end of 2021 or early 2022. As of September 2020, SpaceX has been launching up to 60 satellites at a time. Starship, a new SpaceX vehicle currently in development, will be able to carry up to 400 satellites at a time, rapidly increasing the speed of roll-out and replacements.
The company is currently also working on new packaging for the Starlink Kit. Right now, the focus lies on lowering services cost, which Musk has described as the most technical challenge.
The Starlink constellation comes across as a ground-breaking advancement in satellite internet access. The promised global access, especially in remote rural areas, has the potential to revolutionize the access and usage of the internet. Learn more about how Starlink works and its prospects. You can also sign up for Starlink beta testing, and become a part of this exciting new journey.