In 2019, SpaceX launched the first 60 Starlink satellites. Since then, more than 2,000 have reached orbit, ready to become part of a constellation of more than 12,000. Known as Starlink, the project aims to bring high-speed Internet to every corner of the planet.
Founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk announced the star link concept in January 2015, explaining that the company intended to launch only about 4,000 broadband satellites in low earth orbit to provide low cost Internet. For perspective, there were only about 2,000 operational satellites in orbit before Starlink, and humanity has only launched about 9,000 ships into space in all of history.
Currently, fast Internet access is only available in places with fiber optic cables. In remote locations, communications satellites provide links to the Internet, but connections are notoriously slow.
These satellites are in geostationary orbit, which means that they travel at the same speed as the rotation of the Earth and, therefore, remain positioned on the same point on the ground, according to the European Space Agency (ESA) (opens in a new tab). This makes it easy for receiving satellite dishes to connect with them, but the downside is that transferring data this way takes time.
SpaceX aims to change that by circling the Earth with low-orbiting satellites, according to starlink.com (opens in a new tab). Individually, they will not cover most of the Earth’s surface and will not be geostationary, so there will need to be thousands of them to ensure complete coverage of the globe. But, because they fly low, it will reduce the time it takes for a signal to travel from earth to space and back.
Achieving this is no small thing. The closer a satellite is to Earth, the more drag it will experience from the edges of the Earth. atmosphere. To avoid this, SpaceX has designed the satellites to look like vertical shark fins, according to your website (opens in a new tab), with a knife-like edge that cuts the wind.
Each one weighs just 550 pounds (250 kilograms) and works a bit like a router. Its job is simply to receive signals, figure out where they are going, and transmit them. On the ground, users will have special satellite dishes that connect to the nearest satellite.
How does it work?
The project is not without controversy. Each satellite has a solar array that sticks out like a wing. At sunrise and sunset, it catches the light, making it shine like a shooting star. As the constellation moves overhead, it leaves streaks in telescope images, obscuring the stars and planets behind. Space X has been working with astronomers to minimize the impact by shading and tilting the satellites to reduce light reflected back to Earth, according to space.com (opens in a new tab).
The high-profile project likely to be affected is the Vera Rubin Observatory, scheduled to come online in October 2023 in the Chilean Andes, according to space.com (opens in a new tab). This will be affected by bright trails from satellites due to its wide field of view and high sensitivity.
Satellites also pose a potential threat to other objects in orbit, Live Science previously reported. They are already responsible for more than half of the close encounters in Earth’s orbit, and that proportion will only increase. Live Science previously reported.
In December 2021, the Chinese government filed a formal complaint with the United Nations after two near misses with the Chinese Space Station, space.com (opens in a new tab) informed. And, with at least 11 other companies already entering the satellite constellation race, space is likely to get more complicated and more crowded in the coming years.
For more information on Starlink’s Internet targets, you can visit the satellite’s page at starlink.com (opens in a new tab). Also, you can read more details about Starlink internet speed and coverage at tom guide (opens in a new tab).