Image Source: Getty
SpaceX has been developing and launching rockets for the past decade, all in an effort to demonstrate the spacecraft can eventually take humans back to the moon and Mars someday. The rocket company's ultimate goal is to build a permanent settlement on Mars over the course of the decade. In order to fund their Mars colonization plans, SpaceX aims to fund their space program by offering Starlink internet services world-wide.
The company has been deploying small desk-sized satellites into low Earth orbit that will beam high-speed broadband internet across the globe. Starlink will be a constellation consisting of 12,000 satellites, so far they have deployed a total of 230 satellites. With deployments scheduled for approximately twice a month, each rocket launch deploys a batch of 60 satellites atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Every deployment of 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwidth, that could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time. SpaceX aims to conduct 24 Starlink launches this year, which will enable them to begin offering services to some parts of Canada and Northern United States by the end of the year.
Video render of a Starlink satellite. Source: SpaceX
SpaceX's Starlink broadband internet satellites could benefit the world in a variety of ways. To begin with, Starlink's satellite internet will transmit its signal faster to anywhere on the planet at the speed of light, bypassing the limitations of our current internet infrastructure that involves fiber optic cables and thousands of tower base stations. Starlink's broadband internet will be affordable enough that areas where internet is non-existent, or unreliable will benefit from their service. According to SpaceX officials, Starlink customers will receive internet connection via a small terminal that "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. The device's technology is advanced enough to find the signal on its own, "Starlink terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky," 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. Setting up the Starlink network will be relatively easy, the user would just plug it into electricity and point it at the sky with "No training required."
Receiving internet communication signal from space is useful during extreme weather phenomena, like tornadoes or hurricanes, that could destroy terrestrial communication systems. Starlink users would still have constant communication when bad weather strikes. This is especially useful for emergency first responders, who are in the front-lines of danger rescuing individuals.
Starlink will benefit areas where internet is non-existent or unreliable. This would benefit people who want to live far away "off the grid" where internet is not existent, because all the user would have to do is have a power generator and a Starlink terminal to go online. Hundreds of cities that were previously entirely unsuitable for a business location, will have potential once Starlink goes live.
SpaceX officials previously stated that both their terminal and service cost would be affordable for remote locations in the world. If the company does provide affordable connectivity to poor locations -the internet offers information, knowledge, and business opportunities- it would break open human potential, empowering individuals and entire communities. Connecting the other billions of people worldwide who do not have easy access to internet communication will be a huge economic benefit to global wealth and equity.
Starlink has potential to benefit countries where strict governments have totalitarian control over terrestrial internet communication systems. For example, China is one of the countries that controls internet access. They practice censorship and monitor every individuals internet moves, by controlling what people see or read they manipulate the narrative of what people believe and say. There are fines, even arrests for those who don't follow their internet laws. The majority just have some access to websites that are approved by the government. The country even has teams that 'police' the internet and even develop powerful AI algorithms to filter content. Other countries that practice censorship are Syria, Iran, Vietnam and Russia. Starlink could potentially be a back-end door to surpass the censorship, by simply purchasing a terminal to receive uncensored internet access from the space satellite constellation.
When SpaceX's Starlink internet initiates operations world-wide, it will ignite a new internet age where information will become easily accessible to just about everyone on Earth. There is a high possibility that some countries will ban the use of a Starlink terminal for internet access, but people will realize the tool is available and their government is depriving them of information in an effort to control the populations.
Starlink will also benefit people living in countries where corrupt governments and greedy internet service providers (ISP) over charge individuals to obtain internet access. Many internet providers throttle internet speeds to force people to pay more for services. In some parts of Mexico as well as South America, some ISP companies take advantage of people by offering internet access on a "pay-per-minute" rate. For example, people buy a card with 5G of internet -for a high price- and when they finish their 5G of data, they end up with zero internet connectivity until they are able to afford buying another data card. Starlink could offer people in those situations a more reliable and cost-effective way to stay connected. The internet is not only useful for important tasks like work, school projects, to grow a business, etc. in many places the internet can be used as an alternative method to not spend more on mobile services, it is used to stay connected with family by using apps that offer video calling.
War torn countries could also benefit from satellite based communication. Starlink could provide constant connectivity to areas that face destruction to their ground stations, providing a reliable way for first responders or governments to stay well communicated during rescue operations. In fact, the United States military has tested Starlink's connectivity by hooking up a terminal on the cockpit of an airplane. Read more: The Air Force's Global Lightning program will test all SpaceX Starlink satellites.
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.