SpaceX's Starlink Internet latency is 'designed to run real-time competitive video games'

SpaceX's Starlink Internet latency is 'designed to run real-time competitive video games'

Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink logo / Pixabay / Edit by Tesmanian 

SpaceX is a leader in aerospace innovation. It develops some of the most advanced rockets in the world, capable of returning from space to land vertically on autonomous drone ships at sea. The company is now developing its next-generation spacecraft called 'Starship,' which will one day send hundreds to build a sustainable settlement on Mars. SpaceX aims to fund its ambitious space program by offering Starlink broadband internet service worldwide. The Starlink network will benefit rural areas, where internet connectivity is unreliable or non-existent. “With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” the company stated.

SpaceX has been actively deploying internet-beaming Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. There's a total of 540 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit. The next deployment of 57 satellites is scheduled for this month [date pending]. Company officials said 800 satellites will offer "moderate" internet coverage; 60 Starlink satellites can provide service to 40,000 customers streaming high-definition videos simultaneously. The entire Starlink network will consist of over 12,000 internet-beaming satellites to offer service globally.

Images Source: r/darkpenguin22 via Reddit

The founder and Chief Engineer at SpaceX Elon Musk shared customers will receive Starlink via a user terminal that looks like a “UFO on a stick”. Prototypes of this terminal have been seen at SpaceX ground stations, pictured above. During the 2020 Satellite conference that took place earlier this year, Musk said Starlink “will be a pretty good experience because it'll be very low latency.”

“We're targeting latency below 20 milliseconds (ms), so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level, like that's the threshold for the latency.”

Last month, Musk shared more details via Twitter – He said Starlink is “designed to run real-time, competitive video games,” and that “Version 2, which is at lower altitude could be as low as 8ms latency.” Currently, Starlink satellites operate at an altitude of around 550-kilometers above Earth, future upgraded Starlink satellites will operate closer to Earth, therefore, offer a more direct and fast connection to the ground.



During a recent ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) discussion via Reddit, SpaceX software engineers revealed details about Starlink satellites. They shared the satellites are getting software updates weekly and are already generating 5 terabytes of data daily, which is equivalent to 5 trillion bytes.

SpaceX Engineer Matt Monson leads Starlink software development, shared SpaceX uses the Linux operating system – “Each launch of 60 satellites contains more than 4,000 Linux computers,” Monson said. “The constellation has more than 30,000 Linux nodes (and more than 6,000 microcontrollers) in space right now.”

“We’ve had many instances where a satellite on orbit had a failure we’d never even conceived of before, but was able to keep itself safe long enough for us to debug it, figure out a fix or a workaround, and push up a software update,” Monson stated. He also revealed SpaceX is beaming software updates to the Starlink satellites in space approximately once a week, “with a bunch of smaller test deployments happening as well.”

The Starlink network is also being tested by the United States Air Force on military platforms. Engineers have hooked Starlink terminals to the cockpit of military aircraft. The Air Force will assess Starlink for three years before opting for purchasing the service long-term. In November 2019, the President of SpaceX Gwynne Shotwell said – “We are delivering high bandwidth into the cockpit of Air Force planes [...] Right now we're just testing the capability and figuring out how to make it work.”

A Starlink beta service will be rolled out to the public before this year ends in northern portions of the United States and Canada. The company says it will expand “to near-global coverage of the populated world by 2021.”

You can find out when Starlink will be available in your city via SpaceX's website: STARLINK UPDATES 



About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

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.

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