SpaceX launches first Starlink satellites to Polar Orbit to provide Internet service in Alaska

SpaceX launches first Starlink satellites to Polar Orbit to provide Internet service in Alaska

SpaceX aims to provide Starlink satellite broadband internet worldwide. “Starlink is now delivering initial beta service both domestically and internationally, and will continue expansion to near global coverage of the populated world in 2021,” the company states. Starlink Beta is currently offered in high-latitude areas in northern United States, Canada, and United Kingdom. “During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s [megabits per second] and latency from 20ms to 40ms [milliseconds] in most locations over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all. As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” SpaceX states on its website. You can sign-up via to receive updates about when service will be available in your country. 

The aerospace company has launched approximately 1,023 internet-beaming Starlink satellites out of over 4,400 that will comprise the broadband constellation. SpaceX’s latest rocket launch carried the first 10 satellites to Polar Orbit on Sunday (January 24) during the company’s Transporter-1 Rideshare Mission, in which a Falcon 9 rocket also propelled 133 payloads owned by different companies and organizations. The 10 Starlink satellites were launched to an altitude of approximately 500-kilometers above Earth to operate in Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO). Operating the 10 satellites in Polar Orbit will enable SpaceX to initiate broadband internet service in some of the most remote places in the world, including the United States’ Alaska region. Read more in the TESMANIAN article linked below. 



According to a filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) SpaceX is seeking Special Temporary Authority (STA) to operate three Starlink Gateway ground stations for 60 days in Kuparuk, Alaska, Tracy City, Tennessee, and Gaffney, South Carolina. These ground stations enable the satellites in space to communicate with one other, along with the user terminals on the ground. The user terminals are a phased-array dish antenna that receives the network’s data. If the FCC approves the operation of the Earth stations, SpaceX will test the Starlink Gateways in those states, starting with Alaska. The official SpaceX document to the FCC reads:

“SpaceX Services currently has applications pending for 3 Ka-band gateway earth stations, located in Tracy City, TN; Gaffney, SC; and Kuparuk, AK.1 It would operate each earth station under the requested STA with the technical characteristics set forth in the associated pending application. The only frequencies used for these operations during the time the STA is in effect would be in the 28.6-29.1 GHz [gigahertz] and 29.5-30.0 GHz (uplink) and 17.8-18.6 GHz and 18.8-19.3 GHz (downlink) bands.” 

UPDATE: January 24 SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared the 10 Starlink satellites that will provide service to Polar regions feature Lasers that enable the satellites to communicate with one another. -"These also have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles," he said via Twitter in response to this article. 



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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