All Images Source: Starlink
On Monday, January 6, SpaceX successfully deployed a new batch of 60 Starlink broadband internet satellites into low Earth orbit. SpaceX became the company with the world's largest constellation with a total of 180 satellites in orbit -out of the 12,000 that they plan to deploy. Starlink satellites are small compared to other satellites, they weigh 500.5 pounds and are flat about the size of an office desk, with a single solar array. To operate, each satellite will link to 4 neighboring satellites by using lasers, this technology is new in the internet provider industry. The satellites transmit their signal via 4 phased array radio antennas (shown below).
This flat type of antenna can transmit in multiple directions and frequencies without ever moving. Every deployment of 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwith, that could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time.
In order to move through orbits in space, the satellites are equipped with ion thrusters powered by krypton. Ion thrusters use a charge difference to shoot ions out into a specific direction, creating force to move the satellite in the opposite direction.
This propulsion system gives Starlink the capability to autonomously move to avoid collisions with space debris and other spacecraft by utilizing inputs from the Department of Defense’s debris tracking system. The satellites are equipped to allocate broadband resources in real time, placing capacity where its most on demand. Also have the capability to direct signal away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems in space or on the ground.
Starlink will require associated ground transceivers. Customers would need a user terminal to receive internet connection from space.
Starlink satellites are equipped with one solar array instead of two, minimizing potential points of failure pic.twitter.com/bJirVr67fF— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 24, 2019
SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, revealed some details of how customers will recieve Starlink internet connection. He shared that the terminal "looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick," meaning it is a circular shape antenna attached on a tall pole in order to lift the unit up, so no objects could block the constellation's signal coming from space. He also added that setting up the Starlink network would be relatively easy. The "Starlink terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky," Musk explained. The device's technology is advanced enough to find the signal on its own, users will not have to figure out where the Starlink constellation might be nor adjust the terminal as it moves through the sky, it would automatically move itself.
The user would just plug it into electricity and point it at the sky or vice-versa, with "No training required."
"Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky. Instructions are simply: plug in socket, point at sky. These instructions work in either order. No training required."
Looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick. Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky. Instructions are simply:— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 7, 2020
- Plug in socket
- Point at sky
These instructions work in either order. No training required.
Musk tested the satellites last year by sending a text message via twitter and it actually worked.
Whoa, it worked!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 22, 2019
The company has not made public what the pricing for the service would be, SpaceX President shared:
"All I know is you will be far happier with the value of the Starlink service than you are with your current service. You will, for sure, get way more bandwidth for the same price, or way more bandwidth for less…You’ll be far happier with this. The value will be far greater.”
SpaceX aims to offer broadband service in some parts of the Unites States by the middle of this year, stating, "Starlink is targeting service in the Northern U.S. and Canada in 2020, rapidly expanding to near global coverage of the populated world by 2021."
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.