Elon Musk has been added again. The billionaire, behind companies like Tesla and Space X, is known for his audacious plans. In October of 2019, he took them one step further when SpaceX launched 30,000 satellites into orbit that is on top of 12,000 satellites they have already been given approval for as a part of their Starlink Mega Constellation that aims to be the highest internet across the globe, starting service at North America in 2020. This could be all that stands between us and a fragmented world living in virtually — and actually — different realities.
Starlink is a key project for SpaceX, Elon Musk’s aeronautical business. The goal is to put several thousand telecommunications satellites in orbit that will provide Internet access everywhere in the world, with a pilot phase that should be ready for testing in the United States in 2020, and a planetary roll out in 2021.
SpaceX has recently been sending satellites into orbit with a Falcon 9 rocket. But this was only the beginning. In the next few years, more are to be launched into orbit. Each satellite weighs about 227 kilograms and is about the size of an office desk. According to Elon Musk, it takes about 400 satellites to provide low Internet coverage. 800 satellites in orbit would provide significant operational coverage. In order to achieve the goal the entrepreneur has set for Starlink, at least 1,600 satellites at an altitude of 440 kilometers are needed to change the network far-reaching.
Starlink is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards.
At the end of life, the satellites will utilize their onboard propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months. In the unlikely event the propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years, significantly less than the hundreds or thousands of years required at higher altitudes.
With performance that far surpasses that of traditional satellite internet, and a global network unbounded by ground infrastructure limitations, Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.
The Starlink satellites connect by means of lasers and thus build a network to provide ever greater Internet coverage. Although this is not yet being implemented for the first satellites currently in orbit, laser connections are firmly planned for the next generations. The signals will be received via small terminals, no bigger than a medium-sized pizza, which will be connected to Starlink and will cost around 200 dollars.
Musk said in a statement that the Starlink terminals would also easily fit on ships, airplanes and other mobile devices, allowing these vehicles to have better broadband connections than is possible today.
The project is a little behind schedule with only 500 satellites in orbit from a planned total of 10,000, which will enable Starlink to offer coverage all over the planet. Exactly when the service will go online is not fully clear, but with its regular launches, SpaceX is certainly moving forward at a brisk pace.
The project is yet another challenge for Elon Musk. The South African entrepreneur, who has been naturalized as an American citizen, is continuing to come to the fore with highly ambitious schemes following the success of Tesla, which is now valued at 300 billion dollars, a record for a carmaker, and SpaceX, the company which put two astronauts in space earlier this year.