Starlink is a Project of Elon Musk and his company SpaceX for delivering high speed internet at every place on earth. Traditional Satellite internet are very unreliable and expensive. Mostly the users are connected to Internet via ground based ISP networks. Ground based network are faster and gives low latency but it is not available to every place. Nowadays these type of DSL internet use optic fiber cables and are available in places where the physical connectivity to a network is easily available. Remote and distant locations are unable to connect to the internet. 3G or 4G network are also in very limited reach on those locations.
How Starlink works
Starlink is a constellation of artificial satellites for providing internet service. After completion of launches, about 12000 Starlink satellites will be circling the earth at low earth orbit. Currently till today’s date around 775 satellites are launched. They are orbiting at 550km above earth surface. All these satellites follows a trajectory or orbit in such way that no two satellites will be at same position at same time preventing self-collision of themselves. The trails of these satellites can forms a net. Each satellite talks with other Starlink satellite just like a Neural Network.
These satellites will connect to user in earth surface via Starlink dish receiver (or as Elon Musk says “a UFO on a Stick”). The User will get connection to the satellite at any point of time at any location.
The Satellite Structure
Each Satellite weighs about 260kg approximately. It has a compact design with a flat panel with 4 powerful antennas on each satellite facing toward earth. Solar array powers this satellite. It uses Ion Propulsion Systems to align and maneuver in space. It also has a sensor which tells its location, and altitude. The satellite features Autonomous Collision Avoidance System. It prevents satellite to avoid collision with space debris and other satellites or spacecraft.
Increase in Space Debris?
Space Debris is a concern of topic now. Every now and then a satellite or Human leaves toward space. Small part or a whole satellite can sometime lose connection and circles the earth in uncontrolled environment increasing collision possibility with other satellites. There are over 128 million small pieces of those debris smaller than 1cm, about 900,000 pieces (1-10cm) and 34,000 pieces (over 10cm). These collides with present satellites increasing the count of debris.
With this prevailing problem launching 12,000 more satellite in short period of time increases possibility of further collection of debris. But SpaceX has made clear that the satellite can itself avoid those collision. The Satellite can stay in orbit and do its job till its part get damaged or unusable. It will then itself align and move closer to earth atmosphere. Due to atmospheric effects and heat generated while entering, it will get vaporized leaving no trace.
Although the pros seems very enthusiastic, some news has been published that it can affect future space exploration. About 5000 artificial satellites are present orbiting the earth. Adding 12,000 more is a great risk. Some Astro-photographer has unwillingly captured those Starlink satellites while trying to take the photos of stars. They say this as environment pollution and are worried about how future view of the skies will be when there are over 10,000 satellites.
What will be the future?
By the end of 2022, enough satellites will be on orbit and internet service to every public is near in future. Although many criticisms the mission won’t stop or fail anytime soon. Recent testing has shown the internet latency up to 20ms which is a great number, considering signals are reaching from over 500km wirelessly. The Internet will available in USA and Canada at beginning stage and slowly distributed to other areas. It would cost about $80 per month at beginning stage. Internet at every corner of the world will be available in future.
“You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great – and that’s what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It’s about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can’t think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars.“