World is 60 satellites closer to internet raining down from space and Elon Musk is the man to thank. On Wednesday, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, a Falcon 9 rocket rose carrying the latest 60 satellites to space bringing the number up to 242, out of the total 42,000 needed to complete the mega constellation.
“The Starlink Project” is a pack of satellites to provide the world’s most advanced broadband internet system. The Starlink internet promises a performance that far surpasses any traditional satellite internet and a service that is not bound to ground or infrastructure limitations. Starlink will be able to provide internet to locations where previously there was no access or was too costly and unreliable.
Falcon 9 and Starlink are looking good ahead of this morning’s launch at 9:06 a.m. EST, 14:06 UTC, and weather is 80% favorable. Webcast will go live ~15 minutes before liftoff → https://t.co/gtC39uBC7z pic.twitter.com/m8tgt8JPTR
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 29, 2020
The Starlink project aims to provide internet facility to Northern America and Canada in 2020 and hopes to expand its services all over globe by 2021. The project was delayed several times over a span of several months due to adverse climate conditions but SpaceX saw a window of opportunity in the last week of January 2020 and successfully launched the 4th batch of satellites adding to the number of already orbiting set of satellites.
Elon Musk, founder, CEO and engineer/designer of SpaceX launched the first flight of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation on 24 May, 2019 with an aim to provide uninterrupted, incredibly fast & cheap internet all over the globe.
Elon Musk’s Space Adventures
SpaceX’s official statement points at the hardships faced in turning their dream true where Musk is keeping his emotions in check, stating ‘There is a lot of new technology out there, this is going to be hard’ pointing towards his dream project. “This is something where good fortune plays the most important role”.
According to SpaceX’s statistics, ‘Starlink is going to cost at least $10 Billion to develop’.
Starlink satellites will fly lower than the other conventional transmission satellites orbiting the earth. Starlink is working on leading edge technology to minimize the space debris. Space debris refers to the defunct human made objects orbiting the Earth that no longer serves a useful purpose. These can be satellites, mission related debris or fragmentation debris.
At the end of its functional life, the Starlink satellite, using its on-board propulsion system, will leave the Earth’s orbit over a course of few months. But if, in an unlikely situation, the propulsion system becomes inoperable, Starlink satellites are designed in a way that they will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in 1-5 years that is significantly lower than hundreds or thousands of years conventional satellites need at such high altitudes.
This 4th batch of launched satellites is highly reflective and will likely be visible from the ground at certain times, especially around sunset and sunrise that has greatly irked the Astronomy community for the reason that it affects the study of stars with telescopes as there will now be a shiny hindrance in their way.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 29, 2020
To appease these astronomers, on January 6, SpaceX launched “Darksat” specifically designed to be less reflective.
The SpaceX plans on sending 42,000 satellites eventually to complete the constellation, from which 242 are already in orbit.
These satellites are equipped with state of the art equipment that is expected to enable them to send seamless internet facility all over globe.
Lets have a look at satellite’s internal working.
Each Starlink satellite weighs around 260 kg and features a more compact, flat panel design that allows more space, and capability for the dense launch stack to take full advantage of Space X Falcon 9 rocket.
The satellites are equipped with 4 powerful phased array antennas, which have the ability to place and redirect an enormous amount of throughput in a short time, at a very low price.
Singular Solar Array
Satellites possess a single solar array that makes the process of transmission and the internal systematic very simple. Solar cells are standardized and easy to make in the manufacturing process.
Ion Propulsion Systems
All the satellites are equipped with ion propulsion system powered by “Krypton” that allows them to change the orbit in the event of emergency or de-orbit at the end of their useful life. Starlink satellites are very first in the world that are “Krypton-propelled spacecraft”.
All satellites have an in-built navigation system that constantly keeps a check on the altitude of the satellite and maneuver it if necessary.
It also allows the precision placement of broadband throughput.
Autonomous Collision Avoidance
Starlink satellites uses the data from “Department of Defense’s Debris Tracking System” to allow them to maneuver the track to avoid collision with space debris or other spacecrafts. This capability minimizes the chances of human error and allows a more reliable system for collision avoidance.
The idea of space internet has been pitched by many visionaries and was shot down because of its huge cost. Musk’s project is still a baby, will it be able to see the daylight or more importantly, Space?