Starlink works and who needs

How Elon Musk’s Starlink works and who needs it

How Elon Musk’s Starlink works and who needs it

Starlink is to provide the world with fast, reliable internet through a constellation of satellites. More than 4,000 satellites are already in orbit, and SpaceX plans to launch 40,000 more. The company offers customers easy-to-use terminals for connection and different tariffs. But there are many problems associated with the project, from the risk of satellite collisions with other objects to the impact on astronomical observations.

Why is it needed

Starlink satellites are being launched to cover the entire Earth with high-speed internet, even in remote locations. The main advantage of satellite Internet is that it is available wherever there is a satellite signal receiver, and does not depend on the local network of wired or wireless connections.

Most satellite Internet services are provided by individual geostationary satellites that orbit the planet at an altitude of about 35,000 km, which increases the round-trip data transfer time between the user and the satellite.

A constellation of thousands of Starlink satellites orbits much closer to Earth, at about 550 km, and covers the entire globe. Since each Starlink satellite is in low orbit, the data transmission delay is lower.

In addition to satellite Internet, Stalink can provide satellite mobile communications even in “dead zones”.

How Starlink was born and developed

Although Elon Musk discussed the idea of ​​deploying constellations of 700 satellites back in 2014, Starlink was first officially announced in 2015. SpaceX has filed paperwork with international regulators to place about 4,000 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit.

The company launched the project’s first two test ships, named TinTin A and TinTin B, in February 2018. The first 60 Starlink satellites were launched into orbit on May 23, 2019 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Dozens of satellites have successfully reached an operating altitude of 550 km. Musk said at the time that the launch of 400 Starlink satellites would allow broadband Internet access to begin.

SpaceX has already launched more than 4,000 satellites on its rockets

As of the end of 2020, SpaceX has launched more than 900 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit using the Falcon launch vehicle. At the same time, a beta version of the Starlink Internet service became available. Beta testers reported speeds of 150 Mbps, which was above the range announced for public beta testing.

Commercial use of Starlink began in 2021. At the start of 2021, Starlink had about 10,000 users accessing the service’s beta testing in the US, Canada, and the UK.

How is satellite internet going?

By the end of 2022, the number of active Internet subscribers provided by SpaceX satellites reached 1 million people. As of 2023, the company has launched more than 4,300 Starlink satellites.

But there will be many more: the company already has approval from the US Communications Commission to deploy 12,000 Starlink satellites and has applied to launch 30,000 more satellites beyond that.

SpaceX needs new satellite launches because the more people connect to Starlink, the slower the speed gets. The average download speed in the US has already dropped from 90.6 Mbps to 62.5 Mbps in 2022.

How SpaceX plans to take over the world

The project from SpaceX can be seen as one of the company’s efforts to achieve global influence. Starlink satellites can be used not only for high-speed Internet, but also in other areas: geodesy, meteorology, cartography.

Fast Internet anywhere in the world should help overcome the digital divide and expand the availability of the Internet for people from different regions and countries. But the satellite coverage map does not currently include Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and some other countries.

How much does Internet cost from Starlink

Clients are offered three packages.

Starlink Residential.  Standard residential rate. Costs $110 per month with a one-time hardware fee of $599. Speed: 25-220 Mbps.

Starlink Roam  is designed for portable use, such as when traveling. You can choose either a portable antenna for $599 or a mobile antenna for $2500.

For $150 per month, a customer can use the network throughout their region of residence, and for $200, wherever the SpaceX service is available. Roam users are deprived of priority over Residential subscribers, which reduces the speed to 5-100 Mbps.

Starlink Business  is designed for offices. The package costs $500 per month with a one-time hardware fee of $2,500. With network priority, users can expect download speeds of up to 220Mbps, uploads of up to 25Mbps, and latency of 25-50ms.

Starlink works and who needs

What does the user terminal look like for connecting to Starlink

The user terminal for connecting to Starlink is a small white plate with a diameter of about 54 cm and a weight of about 5 kg. It is designed to be installed on the roof of a building and is used to receive and transmit data from satellites. The kit includes everything you need to connect to the Internet: Wi-Fi router, power supply, cables and base.

The terminals are easy to install and catch the satellite signal in any weather

The terminals provide direct communication to the user through a combination of terrestrial antennas and satellites. The antennas are pointed to the sky, and when a Starlink satellite passes overhead, the antenna communicates with it and transmits a signal to the user’s router for Internet access.

The antenna uses phased array technology to track and keep in touch with the satellite even if it is moving fast. By the way, Starlink devices flying across the sky look like a “train” of lights.

The terminal automatically monitors the weather and optimizes communication performance, taking into account all changes in the atmosphere. Due to the user-friendly design and easy installation, users can set up the system themselves at home.

Starlink’s main competitors

Iridium Communications

The American company operates a constellation of Iridium satellites, consisting of 75 satellites – 66 of them are active, and the remaining nine function as spares in orbit. With Iridium satellites, you can send voice and data messages around the world from portable satellite phones, satellite communication devices and built-in transceivers.

GalaxySpace and the Chinese government

The Beijing-based company was founded in 2016 to build a private constellation of broadband access satellites. The satellite constellation should provide consumers with 5G connectivity with 500 Mbps download speeds.

In March 2022, the company launched six experimental satellites and demonstrated the ability to provide broadband connectivity to ground terminals.

In the future, China is preparing to send 13,000 satellites into low Earth orbit to directly compete with SpaceX and control its satellite constellations.

Amazon

In 2019, Amazon created Project Kuiper, which aims to deploy thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit and provide internet to hard-to-reach places. Initially, the Project Kuiper constellation will be 3236 satellites. The first launches are scheduled for early 2024.

A standard client terminal will be cheaper than Starlink – $400. Customers will get 400 Mbps speed. Amazon’s largest and most powerful enterprise antenna measures 48cm by 76cm and delivers speeds up to 1Gbps. This is enough to download a full-length movie in high quality in about 30 seconds.

Telesat and the Government of Canada

The Canadian satellite communications company was founded in 1969 and launched its first satellite in 1972. In 2016, Telesat announced that it would create a Lightspeed constellation of 120 satellites in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 1,000 km. In 2020, Telesat expanded the constellation plan to around 1,600 satellites.

Full deployment of Lightspeed satellites could take place in 2026, six years later than originally planned, as negotiations to fund the satellite constellation drag on.

How satellite Internet is developing in Russia

In April 2022, the government approved a 10-year project to create the Sphere satellite constellation. The program developed by Roscosmos includes the launch of 500 Earth monitoring satellites from space until 2030.

It is also planned to create 300 satellites for the Internet of things, which will increase the capacity of the Russian satellite infrastructure to 430 Gbps.

In October 2022, the first satellite of the Sphere orbital group, Skif-D, as well as three communication satellites Gonets-M, were launched into orbit after the launch of the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle from the Vostochny cosmodrome.

Why are satellites in orbit dangerous?

When many objects are in the same orbit, the probability of their collision, for example, with space debris, increases. Debris could threaten other satellites and space stations, as well as fall to Earth. In 2022, NASA expressed concern that with the increase in the Starlink constellation, the likelihood of collisions would also increase.

The terminals are easy to install and catch the satellite signal in any weather

The terminals provide direct communication to the user through a combination of terrestrial antennas and satellites. The antennas are pointed to the sky, and when a Starlink satellite passes overhead, the antenna communicates with it and transmits a signal to the user’s router for Internet access.

The antenna uses phased array technology to track and keep in touch with the satellite even if it is moving fast. By the way, Starlink devices flying across the sky look like a “train” of lights.

The terminal automatically monitors the weather and optimizes communication performance, taking into account all changes in the atmosphere. Due to the user-friendly design and easy installation, users can set up the system themselves at home.

Starlink’s main competitors

Iridium Communications

The American company operates a constellation of Iridium satellites, consisting of 75 satellites – 66 of them are active, and the remaining nine function as spares in orbit. With Iridium satellites, you can send voice and data messages around the world from portable satellite phones, satellite communication devices and built-in transceivers.

GalaxySpace and the Chinese government

The Beijing-based company was founded in 2016 to build a private constellation of broadband access satellites. The satellite constellation should provide consumers with 5G connectivity with 500 Mbps download speeds.

In March 2022, the company launched six experimental satellites and demonstrated the ability to provide broadband connectivity to ground terminals.

In the future, China is preparing to send 13,000 satellites into low Earth orbit to directly compete with SpaceX and control its satellite constellations.

Amazon

In 2019, Amazon created Project Kuiper, which aims to deploy thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit and provide internet to hard-to-reach places. Initially, the Project Kuiper constellation will be 3236 satellites. The first launches are scheduled for early 2024.

A standard client terminal will be cheaper than Starlink – $400. Customers will get 400 Mbps speed. Amazon’s largest and most powerful enterprise antenna measures 48cm by 76cm and delivers speeds up to 1Gbps. This is enough to download a full-length movie in high quality in about 30 seconds.

Telesat and the Government of Canada

The Canadian satellite communications company was founded in 1969 and launched its first satellite in 1972. In 2016, Telesat announced that it would create a Lightspeed constellation of 120 satellites in low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 1,000 km. In 2020, Telesat expanded the constellation plan to around 1,600 satellites.

Full deployment of Lightspeed satellites could take place in 2026, six years later than originally planned, as negotiations to fund the satellite constellation drag on.

How satellite Internet is developing in Russia

In April 2022, the government approved a 10-year project to create the Sphere satellite constellation. The program developed by Roscosmos includes the launch of 500 Earth monitoring satellites from space until 2030.

It is also planned to create 300 satellites for the Internet of things, which will increase the capacity of the Russian satellite infrastructure to 430 Gbps.

In October 2022, the first satellite of the Sphere orbital group, Skif-D, as well as three communication satellites Gonets-M, were launched into orbit after the launch of the Soyuz-2.1b launch vehicle from the Vostochny cosmodrome.

Why are satellites in orbit dangerous?

When many objects are in the same orbit, the probability of their collision, for example, with space debris, increases. Debris could threaten other satellites and space stations, as well as fall to Earth. In 2022, NASA expressed concern that with the increase in the Starlink constellation, the likelihood of collisions would also increase.

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