“The first step is to establish that something is possible; then probability will occur.”
Starlink is the expansive satellite internet constellation from Elon Musk’s Space X that hopes to bring the world high-speed internet and promises no more buffering, and instantaneous internet in every part of the world. Starlink is a globe-encompassing network of satellites that claims to bring the internet to the remotest corners of the world. Starlink was initially announced back in January 2015. Though it was not named at the time, the company had already filed documents with international regulators to place around 4000 satellites in the lower orbit of the earth. Their complete plan is to send around 42,000 satellites in the next few years. Recently, SpaceX and Tesla CEO, Elon Musk exclaimed that they have around 1,469 satellites active with 272 of them moving to operational orbits currently. Starlink is catering to around 1,45000 users spread across 25 countries.
RELEVANCE OF STARLINK SATELLITES
At least half of the planet’s population today cannot access the internet as conventional internet setups require a huge track of expensive underground cables. Traditional satellite internet is usually provided by a single bus-sized spacecraft. Since only one satellite is meant to cater to a large number of internet users, its data capacity is limited, which also has an impact on its connection speed. If the signal has to travel a long way, there’s a definite lag in speed. This is where Elon Musk and SpaceX come into the scene with Starlink satellites.
Starlink is a globe-encompassing network that can bring the internet to the remotest corners of the world. The company is estimated to net about 30-50 billion dollars a year. Musk along with the SpaceX President, Gwynne Shotwell believe that such an amount could single-handedly fund Starlink, Starship, and also SpaceX’s Mars launched infrastructure.
HOW THE SATELLITES FUNCTION
As of early October 2021, SpaceX has launched more than 700 satellites into orbit. It plans to release 12,000 more by the end of 2024. In more time, the SpaceX CEO plans to send in more 30,000 satellites taking the entire number to 42,000. These satellites will be anywhere between 200-400 miles above the planet in low-Earth orbit. This will highly reduce the connection delay. These Starlink satellites will constantly be on the move so that it provides good connectivity to all places at all times. Several satellites need to be overhead at any given point of time to cover a massive area. A network backbone is created when each satellite connects with all others through laser beams. A pizza-sized antenna is all that one needs to bring the network to one’s home.
DRAWBACKS: BRIGHTER NIGHT SKIES AND SPACE DEBRIS
Experts worry that Starlink satellites may come at a hefty cost for space exploration.
Starlink satellites are really bright because they reflect the sunlight back towards the Earth. These satellites look like really bright stars moving in a trail-like motion.
As beautiful as it may look, this comes with its problems. Experts worry that Starlink satellites may come at a hefty cost for space exploration. These satellites are most visible in the night sky right before dawn and right after dusk which is the exact time when astronomers are hunting for near-earth objects or asteroids. These are the objects that could possibly hit the earth and cause harm. As more satellites go up, so does the fear that they will interfere with astronomers’ work.
If Starlink continues being a problem for these types of sky surveys, space scientists may not have enough time to detect a near-earth objects and thwart them before they cause destruction to the planet. Apart from it being a problem in detecting deadly asteroids, it could obstruct the search for new planets and even black holes.
There’s a concern about Space Debris because when you have so many satellites in the closest, tightest, densest orbits around Earth, there is a higher chance that the satellites could collide with each other or with other satellites. This collision would lead up to the creation of space debris which could encircle the planet for years, decades, or even the centuries to come. That debris can then disable or cause other satellites to crash into each other, creating even more debris and this problem will spiral out of control. This effect is also known as the Kessler Syndrome. If we reach that then essentially space becomes too unsafe to access.
Although, the risk of a runaway Kessler syndrome is very low but the potential impacts of that are so high that scientists are working extremely hard to control such an event from ever happening.
There are many similar projects coming up such as Amazon’s Kuiper project, OneWeb, China’s Hongyan, and other projects that will be competing with SpaceX by launching their own global network of hundreds or thousands of satellites. If there are no regulations around these things soon, there could be 100,000 satellites encompassing our planet within the next 10 years, dramatically increasing the threat of closing off space for everyone.
SPACE-X FIXES THE POTENTIAL RISKS POSED BY THE SATELLITES
SpaceX realized that it had to do something to fix the potential threats being caused by these satellites. For that reason, Dark Sat was created which is a satellite that has all of its shiny parts covered in a very black and dark material. It also added visors to shield those shiny parts from the ground, however, unless the satellite is completely cloaked (a technology that does not exist), it will continue to be a problem. SpaceX claims that its satellites can automatically move out of the way to avoid collisions. Dozens of SpaceX satellites are already disabled and cannot move at all. Those concerned with Space X’s plans are lobbying the FCC to reign in the company and more strictly regulate low-earth orbit.
FEATURES OF STARLINK
- Starlink enables video calls, online gaming, streaming, and other high data rate activities. The download speeds are between 100 Mb/s and 200 Mb/s. Users can expect latency to be as low as 20ms in the majority of areas.
- Starlink is ideal for areas where connectivity has been unreliable if not unavailable. It can be made use of people around the globe to access education, health services, etc.
HOW DO I CONNECT TO STARLINK?
Starlink is available in 25 countries globally, most of which are in North America, Oceania, Europe, and South America.
Starlink can be set up in 5 easy steps-
- Finding an open space- In order to get the best speed, Starlink needs about 100 degrees of clear sky above it.
- Build up the kit using instructions
- Powering up Starlink
- Downloading the Starlink app
HOW MUCH WILL STARLINK COST IN INDIA
Starlink has recently been in the news for hitting a wall in India where it has been asked by the Indian government to refund its clients and refrain from taking in fresh orders. The company has already received around 5000 pre-orders in India but is struggling to get a commercial license.
Since Starlink has not been launched in India yet, it’s difficult to predict what its actual cost could be. However, it’s being predicted that the Starlink price would be 1,58,000 for the first year. The base price is expected to be 37,400 for user equipment along with around 7,425 per month for the services. Starlink was also in the news recently for being made a victim of a bitcoin scam wherein third-party companies were posing as official providers and taking payments ‘confidentially’ in Bitcoins.
Once it receives the license to provide services, Starlink plans to provide around 100 devices free of cost to schools in Delhi and nearby districts and eventually target around 12 districts across the country.