Elon Musk Shares How Many SpaceX Starlink Satellites Are Operational, Says ‘Lasers Links Activate Soon’

Elon Musk Shares How Many SpaceX Starlink Satellites Are Operational, Says ‘Lasers Links Activate Soon’

Featured Image Source: Starlink Render Created By @ErcXspace via Twitter

On Saturday, January 15, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared how many SpaceX Starlink satellites are currently operational. The company has launched approximately 1,993 Starlink satellites since 2019 atop Falcon 9 rockets. Musk revealed that only 1,469 Starlink satellites are active and “272 moving to operational orbits,” he said via Twitter. The information suggests that the company only operates around 1,800 satellites in orbit and the rest are no longer functional or in orbit. According to Astronomer Jonathan McDowell, 1,808 Starlink satellites are working out of the 1,993 deployed. 

The 272 satellites that are moving into operational orbits are the ones the company most recently launched that are equipped with inter-satellite communication laser links. “Laser links activate soon,” said Musk. The Starlink satellites use their onboard ion thrusters to raise into a higher operational altitude of around 540-kilometers in low Earth orbit. Once they reach an operational altitude they will begin beaming Internet to Starlink customers. SpaceX currently provides Starlink internet to over 145,000 users across 25 countries globally. Overall, SpaceX plans to launch over 12,000 satellites within the next seven years to enable worldwide broadband coverage.

Laser inter-satellite links are needed to provide reliable internet coverage in high latitudes and mid ocean coverage, according to Musk. The laser links feature enables the satellite fleet to operate without the need to communicate with a ground station on Earth. Instead, the satellites will beam data to one another via the laser links which enables a much faster data transfer rate to users because light travels faster in the vacuum of space than through fiber-optic cables. “[…] Data packets do not need to touch regular Internet – data can flow from user terminal to satellite/s to user terminal [customer antenna],” Musk explained in September 2021. 
“With these space lasers, the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data,” said SpaceX Engineer Kate Tice. 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 last year.
Featured Image Source: Starlink Render Created By @ErcXspace via Twitter

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy 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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