That’s why Starlink could be an Internet Game Changer – Starlink is a project in which Elon Musk is putting a lot of effort, money and attention. If you have never heard of it, it’s a communication satellite network capable of providing a high quality and low-cost global broadband internet with low latency. The project was first announced in 2015, with the idea of sending two prototype satellites into orbit in 2016, called TinTin A and B. Launch postponed to 2018 after several difficulties.
But on the other hand, the announcements about Elon’s timing have become a meme. On November 19, 2018, the Federal Communication Commission approved the deployment of 7,518 satellites, in addition to the already approved 4,425, bringing the expected total number of satellites to 12,000. The high number of satellites is due to the need to cover the whole planet.
Being at a lower altitude, 550 kilometers, compared to the altitude of many other satellites that go beyond 1000 kilometers, each Starlink satellite covers less distance. The network will surround the earth allowing each satellite to stay connected. With all these satellites around the earth, it’s natural to think about the problem of space debris. These satellites are designed to de-orbit towards the earth at the end of their life cycle, thus avoiding leaving debris.
95 percent of each satellite will burn in the atmosphere, the remaining five percent will be diverted to the ocean … I think. In addition, the satellites are equipped with Krypton Ion Thrusters and an autonomous collision avoidance system that allows them to detect debris and adjust the orbit to avoid them. Another of the problems, complained by astronomers, is the train of lights that satellites produce in the sky as they pass, disturbing the observation of the stars.
This is a problem they are working on, one of the solutions tested at the moment is to provide satellites with coverage. According to Elon: It’s made of a special dark foam that’s extremely radio transparent, so as not to affect the phased array antennas. Looks a lot like a car sun visor. On May 24, 2019 the first group of 60 satellites was launched and since then there have been several launches, almost all from 60 satellites each, all successes.
The current number of satellites in orbit is about 600, well beyond the minimum number of satellites necessary to have a minimum coverage needed to offer the internet service, which is 400. In fact, the closed beta test in North America is one step away from official start. Limited tests are currently underway among Starlink employees and investors.
But at this point you may ask yourself what Starlink can do for you, if you are reading this article I guess you already have internet. And in this you may be right, unless you’re a competitive gamer without a good internet, in that case you would sell your soul for the internet with less ping, I know that, don’t lie to me. The Starlink project doesn’t aim to compete with normal internet providers, but aims to provide that part of the world that’s not yet reached by the internet, especially the most isolated places on the planet.
To date, around four billion people, more than half of the world’s population, are still without the internet. It’s estimated that moving US only, from 4g to 5g wireless connection will cost around 150 billion dollars over the next 7 years. SpaceX plans to complete the Starlink project for around ten billion dollars. Each satellite costs around 300 thousand dollars, which is already a huge cut in communication satellite costs.
In addition, SpaceX also saves on launch costs as it launches on its Falcon 9 rockets that are reusable. Users will connect to the internet through a Starlink terminal that will costs around 200 dollars, unfortunately still an excessive cost for third world countries, but it’s certainly a start and much lower than similar existing receivers, such as the Kymeta version, that costs around thirty thousand dollars.
What?! Come again?! Thirty thousand dollars. Ok… Hey, let’s go Starlink!
The Starlink receiver will be flat enough to be placed on the roof of the car or other vehicles such as ships or planes. Ok for third world countries and rural areas, but is it really a sustainable business? Where will all the money come from? Well the answer is simple.
Starlink satellites are equipped with 5 lasers, which will be used to transfer information via light pulses. Light transmits 47 percent slower into the fiber optic glass than vacuum. This benefit will be worth a lot of money to SpaceX.
The New York and London stock exchanges are connected by fiber with a latency of 76 milliseconds. The latency expected by Starlink is 20ms. With millions of dollars shifted in fractions of a second between the two cities, having a lower latency would provide a huge advantage in capitalizing on price swings. In that sector every single second counts. It wouldn’t be the first time that a communications company has made an investment to specifically serve these financial groups.
I speak of 300 million of dollars invested to obtain a decrease of only 5ms. How much would they be willing to pay for such a huge drop as Starlink plans to offer? In addition, latency increases with increasing distance. New York and London have a relatively short distance, imagine the distance between London and Singapore. The improvements would be even more evident and the earnings much higher.
If everything goes as planned, a profit of between thirty and fifty billion is estimated every year. This is a vital part of Elon Musk’s long-term plan. The money generated by Starlink means huge funds available to SpaceX, far more than NASA. This could lead to further research and development for new rockets and technologies needed for the colonization of Mars and the Moon.
For the moment, the project is limited to connecting the world, providing access to information so precious to countries and people who until now had not. And there’s great news. SpaceX has just signed an agreement with Spaceflight inc., The leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider, ensuring a rideshare capacity in many launches.
More than 100 spacecraft have been signed up to fly on Falcon 9 since SpaceX launched the rideshare program. Delays of launches in the space sector are frequent and inevitable, since they don’t depend on totally controllable factors, such as weather, for example. With this agreement, Spaceflight offers its customers more flexibility, having a large window of flights that they can use to launch their loads. And for SpaceX, this deal brings new economic prospects.
Let me know in the comments what you think and if you liked the article!
Web enthusiast. Thinker. Evil coffeeaholic. Food specialist. Reader. Twitter fanatic. Music maven. AI and Machine Learning!