SpaceX's first Starlink satellites in Polar Orbit feature 'Space Lasers'

SpaceX's first Starlink satellites in Polar Orbit feature 'Space Lasers'

On January 24, SpaceX performed the Transporter-1 Rideshare Mission that deployed 143 payloads for a wide range of customers. A Falcon 9 rocket launched the payloads to Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO), 10 Starlink satellites rode along to join SpaceX's broadband internet constellation. In the days ahead the fleet of Starlink satellites will use their onboard krypton-powered ion thrusters to operate in Polar Orbit. These are the first Starlink satellites that will provide high-speed internet service to Polar regions, including Alaska. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared on Sunday evening that the 10 Starlink satellites deployed over the weekend feature ‘laser links.’ –“These also have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles,” he stated via Twitter. SpaceX engineers call these inter-satellite links "space lasers."

The lasers will enable the Starlink satellites to communicate – link – with one another without the need for ground stations. However, SpaceX is in the process of building ground stations in some areas around the world because it currently operates approximately one thousand satellites in low Earth orbit that do not feature laser links to communicate, only two satellites deployed last year feature the space laser communication technology. “All sats [satellites] launched next year will have laser links. Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are [version] v0.9,” Musk shared yesterday. 



SpaceX Senior Program Reliability Engineer Kate Tice, shared in September that they tested a pair of satellites in orbit that feature space lasers. “The Starlink team completed a test of two satellites …that are equipped with our inter-satellite links which we call called 'space lasers',” she said. The space laser feature will significantly speed-up data transfer rate. The data speed increases because light travels faster in the vacuum of space compared to fibre-optic cables, so, information sent through inter-satellite lasers will arrive significantly faster. “With these space lasers, the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data,” she shared last year.

The Starlink satellites featuring 'space lasers' will 'link' with four others using the 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. –“Once these space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options to transmit data all over the world,” Tice said.

During a conference with Via Satellite last year, SpaceX’s Vice President of Starlink and Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller, stated that the company aims to equip all future Starlink satellites with laser links. “We have to make sure it’s cost effective in order to provide it and implement it into the constellation. That’s something we are attacking internally and aggressively and it’s something that we know will greatly enhance the system, both for consumers and enterprise customers, and our government customers as well,” he said in July. SpaceX is currently providing service based on location, you can sign-up via to receive updates about when service will be available in your country.

All Images Source: SpaceX 

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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