SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared in a Twitter conversation that the company’s next-generation Starlink satellites [Gen2 System] could be “active" in around six months. The satellites are equipped with inter-satellite laser links. The lasers will enable the satellites to communicate - link - with one another without the need for ground stations. This feature is useful to provide high-speed internet access in remote regions across the world, especially countries where terrestrial internet infrastructures are not reliable like the war-torn country of Afghanistan. The U.S. Military withdrew from the country on Tuesday, August 31, the Taliban now controls the territory and the future of the country is uncertain. The U.S. left hundreds of Americans and Afghan partners behind and Afghanistan’s communication infrastructure is not as reliable to plan rescue operations. “The Taliban have started to turn the internet on and off in some parts of Kabul,” said Habib Khan Totakhil, an Afghan journalist.
During a television news report, former U.S. Navy intelligence officer Lyla Kohistany told reporters that Starlink broadband will be useful for the United States rescue operations. –“Frankly, I would love it if SpaceX would just flood Afghanistan with Starlink so that there is a way for us to maintain communication with our Afghan partners,” Kohistany said.
Our satellites launching in next few months have inter-satellite laser links, so no local downlink needed. Probably active in 4 to 6 months.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021
SpaceX currently operates a broadband constellation of approximately 1,740 satellites. The first-generation satellites do require a ground station to access internet data. In response to Kohistany, a Twitter user mentioned that SpaceX would have to find a friendly neighboring country to host their ground station. Musk responded to the comment – “Our satellites launching in next few months have inter-satellite laser links, so no local downlink needed. Probably active in 4 to 6 months,” he wrote. “Technically, data packets do not need to touch regular Internet [ground station] – data can flow from user terminal to satellite/s to user terminal [phased-array dish antenna device],” Musk further explained. SpaceX’s next-generation satellites with lasers will be capable of transmitting hundreds of gigabytes of data without the need of directly receiving data from a ground station on Earth. The laser feature will significantly speed-up data transfer rate because light travels faster in the vacuum of space compared to fibre-optic cables underground. A reporter asked Musk in a follow up tweet, "How does transmitting into a country without a local downlink work on the regulatory side?" they wrote, "They can shake their fist at the sky," Musk joked.
Technically, data packets do not need to touch regular Internet – data can flow from user terminal to satellite/s to user terminal— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021
They can shake their fist at the sky— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2021
Featured Image Source: SpaceX