SpaceX is actively deploying a satellite constellation that will beam high-speed broadband internet across the world, the internet service is called Starlink. The funds earned through providing internet to world-wide customer base will be used by SpaceX to further fund their space program that aims to build Moon Base Alpha on the lunar surface, and a permanent colony on Mars. Starlink will provide the rocket company with a reliable revenue to enable humanity to become a spacefaring civilization. SpaceX will begin to build a constellation consisting of approximately 1,584 small satellites in low Earth orbit, they have approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate as many as 12,000 satellites. The company has informed global regulators that in the future they might seek permission to deploy 30,000 more, for a Starlink constellation totaling 42,000. As of today, there is 290 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. Each individual satellite is about the size of an office desk with a launch mass of 227 kilograms (500.5 pounds). The design is a flat panel with a single solar array that unfolds upwards. Compared to other satellites in orbit, Starlink satellites are small.
According to SpaceX officials, 60 satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwidth, that could potentially support 40,000 users. The United States military has been testing Starlink internet for the past months, they hooked a Starlink terminal in the cockpit of Air Force airplanes, they have reported internet speeds that surpass their previous internet connectivity aboard flights. Starlink customers will receive internet connection via a small terminal that "looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick." 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.
All images source: Starlink
Once operating, each Starlink satellite will also be capable of automatically moving itself. Starlink satellites are also capacitated to use their integrated ion thrusters powered by krypton in order to move in orbit through space. Ion thrusters use a charge difference to shoot ions (charged molecules) out into a specific direction, creating force to move the satellite in the opposite direction. This propulsion system can also be used to deorbit a satellite when it stops working. To keep space clean and avoid contributing to the growing space junk problem, SpaceX designed the satellites to easily burn up in Earth's atmosphere within 1 to 5 years.
SpaceX has design plans, to build a system so that each Starlink satellites could link with 4 others using lasers, to allocate broadband resources in real time by placing capacity where its most on demand; also be capable of directing signal away from areas where it might cause interference to other systems, in space or on Earth. No other satellites in operation currently do this with lasers. Satellites will also be able to autonomously move to avoid collisions with space debris and other spacecraft by utilizing inputs from the Department of Defense’s debris tracking system. Navigation sensors, 'Star Trackers,' tell each satellite its attitude, which helps enable precision placement of broadband throughput.
SpaceX announced this week they are searching for a Senior Software Engineer with a "passion for engineering" and knowledge in C++ programming language, to join their "Starlink Lasers Communications Team" who will aid in the development of "Space Lasers" -Starlink satellite's laser feature. The job application says it will be the first time SpaceX ever attempts to create a technology for a satellite network that involves lasers, it "will involve building new technologies from scratch." The application also says the individual applying shouldn't be "afraid to solve ambiguous problems." And that no aerospace experience is required for this job role, only "proficiency in embedded C++."
This "Space Laser" innovation would truly revolutionize the internet satellite industry. If interested for the job opening at SpaceX, you can find the application here: Senior Software Engineer (Space Lasers).
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.