Have you ever wondered, what’s the future of internet. Well many say its Starlink. Starlink is the name of a satellite network that the private spaceflight company SpaceX is developing to provide low-cost internet to remote locations. It is another of Elon Musk’s brilliant ideas- a constellation of thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit that will provide internet access across the globe. So, let us analyse this futuristic approach of providing internet.
HOW WILL STARLINK WORK ?
SpaceX’s satellite internet proposal was announced January 2015. The company had filed documents with international regulators to place about 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.
These satellites were to form a large constellation at initially 600 km orbit, later the orbit was lowered to 550 km. Musk’s initial estimate of the number of satellites soon grew, The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted SpaceX permission to fly 12,000 satellites and perhaps as many as 30,000 eventually.
These satellites will be moving very fast and covering virtually every inch on the surface of Earth. These satellites will send and receive signals by beaming information through the atmosphere instead of passing them through fibre optics cables. The signals speed will be 47 % faster this way. The satellites are kept as closer to Earth as possible to reduce the delay time and increase the speed of the internet.
Each satellite in this Elon Musk Starlink project weighs just 573 pounds (260kg). They are basically very flat and then when 60 of them are placed inside one of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. The main portion includes four powerful antennas for internet transmissions. They also have lasers that connect each satellite with four others in orbit. Finally, they include ion thrusters that use krypton gas. This allows them to stay in orbit longer even at these lower distances from Earth.
START OF SERVICE AND SPEED
Musk said the Starlink network would be able to provide “minor” internet coverage after 400 spacecraft were up and running, and “moderate” coverage after about 800 satellites became operational. To date (21st July .2020) , 540 satellites are already in orbit. As of 2020, SpaceX is launching 60 satellites at a time, aiming to deploy 1,584 of the 260 kilograms (570 lb) spacecraft to provide near-global service by late 2021 or 2022.
SpaceX is targeting a private beta service in the Northern United States and Canada by August 2020 with a public beta following in November 2020, service beginning at high latitudes between 44°-52° North. The exact internet speed is not claimed by Satrlink , yet. But the company claimed that due to low orbit, the signals latency is around 25ms to 35ms. This latency can provide relatively fast internet , fast enough for playing online video games and streaming videos . Download speeds should also be pretty quick, at about 16Gbps. (expected )
CONTROVERSY AND SOLUTIONS
As with all the big programs, the starlink project has also faced criticism from the astronomical community . There are two basic concerns:
- Light pollution: The starlink satellites are close to earth and they can reflect enough light to make the night sky bright, blocking radiations and signals from outer space. This would affect the astronomical investigations The International Astronomical Union (IAU) and National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have released official statements expressing concern on the matter.
- Space Debris: Expected number of satellites are up to as high as 42,000. These will form a net like cover around Earth . Wheisn these satellites will be dead , they can stay in orbit causing massive amount of space junk. Any future launch can be affected by this space junk.
As for the light pollution problem. SpaceX said that it is finding a reasonable solution to the problem and claimed that they will try to minimize the light reflection. In the January 2020 batch, one Starlink satellite, called DarkSat, was painted in an experimental partially black coating designed to reduce its brightness.
Realizing the future issue of space debris, SpaceX lowered the orbit of Satrlink satellites so that failed satellite deorbits in a few years and crash to Earth due to atmospheric drag.
You may like Satrlink or not, but you cannot deny the fact that it really is the future of internet in the world. Besides providing low-priced, high-speed internet to inhabitants of Earth, it has much greater aim, providing funds for the Musk’s cherished dream of colonization of Mars. Starlink may also be a system for communication between Earth and its colonies on moon and Mars in the far future.