Featured Image Source: SpaceX
SpaceX deployed the eleventh fleet of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit on August 18. Now, the aerospace company has a total of 648 internet-beaming satellites out of the 12,000 that will initially make up the broadband constellation. Starlink will provide SpaceX with additional revenue towards making life multi-planetary. Tuesday’s launch brought the company closer towards offering Starlink internet. Company officials said service will be offered in northern portions of the United States and Canada after 12 satellite fleet deployments, which would increase the size of the constellation to almost 800 satellites to provide “moderate” internet coverage. SpaceX says it needs 24 launches to start offering broadband internet on a global scale.
The satellites are small compared to others in orbit; they feature a single solar array and four powerful phased array antennas that are flat enabling it to beam signal to the ground in all directions without moving. The first satellites in the constellation will all operate at an altitude of around 540 to 570 kilometers above Earth.
Customers will receive Starlink’s signal from space via a user terminal dish and Wi-Fi router. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already approved the operation of 1 million user terminals and routers in the United States. SpaceX recently submitted a new request with the FCC, seeking to increase the number of Starlink user terminals and routers to 5 million. “SpaceX Services requests this increase in authorized units due to the extraordinary demand for access to the Starlink non-geostationary orbit satellite system,” the company wrote to the FCC. Early last month, SpaceX asked potential customers to submit their e-mail to receive updates of when the service will be available in their area. “Despite the fact that SpaceX has yet to formally advertise this system’s services, nearly 700,000 individuals represented in all 50 states signed up over a matter of just days to register their interest. To ensure that SpaceX is able to accommodate the apparent demand for its broadband Internet access service, SpaceX Services requests a substantial increase in the number of authorized units,” the company stated.
In June, SpaceX submitted a filing to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), applying for a telecommunications license in Canada. The license SpaceX is seeking is a Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) license. If approved, it would authorize the company to beam Starlink’s – “telecommunications traffic between Canada and any other country,” the filing reads.
According to SpaceX Vice-President of Starlink and Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller, the company already initiated a private beta testing phase of the Starlink network. He shared with reporters the Starlink terminal is easy to install. – “I have deployed one on my house, it’s very exciting to get one. The instructions are super-easy. You plug it in, and you point it at the sky, and a few seconds later you have internet. It’s truly remarkable,” he said.
Anonymous Starlink beta testers shared their internet speeds via Reddit. SpaceX officials stated engineers target low-latency of 20 milliseconds (ms). Assuming only some of the 600 satellites in orbit are in operation during testing, the network is still showing promising results – latency under the 100ms FCC threshold. The latency rates between eight beta testers in Los Angeles, California, ranged from 20ms to 94ms; And download speeds varying from 11Mbps to 60Mbps, with upload speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 18Mbps. Starlink’s latency and speed will improve and show consistency across users once more satellites are deployed.