What is Starlink Satellite Internet? When Will Starlink Be Available?

All About Starlink Internet

Around the world, internet service is less than equal. In some communities, it is robust and reliable. In others, it is non-existent. To improve internet access around the world, Elon Musk developed a service called Starlink.

His idea is to use his reusable SpaceX rockets to deliver low-Earth orbit satellite internet service. His goal is to provide internet service as early as November 2020, with a private beta test beginning in July.

Starlink and SpaceX

Elon Musk is the mastermind behind several technologies. One of those is SpaceX. This aerospace company is designing the satellites and doing it at a lower price than other organizations charge for the same services.

SpaceX is all about reusing resources, like the launch rockets. Musk understands the importance of not wasting resources, which benefits the environment and reduces costs.

With these reusable rockets, Musk is sending internet satellites into a low orbit around the Earth. These satellites will deliver incredibly fast internet at speeds expected to reach 1 gigabit per second. There will be over 4000 satellites just over 200 miles above the Earth and another 7500 satellites around 1200 miles above the planet.

These low-orbit satellites will bring internet service where it does not exist now. The satellites will communicate with hubs on Earth. These hubs will be responsible for the lightning-fast speeds. SpaceX got the most important approval recently. The Federal Communications Commission gave SpaceX permission for the satellites and internet service.

Just recently, SpaceX launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The recent launch means that there are more than 400 of the internet satellites orbiting the Earth.

How Does Starlink Work?

Most people access the internet through fiber-optic lines in our homes or businesses. They also use WIFI internet through modems and routers that also connect through phone lines. Over the years, the internet has become speedy.

With Starlink, the way the internet works will change. The satellites will look like a massive constellation with thousands of specks that resemble a fishing net surrounding the planet. This net of satellites will communicate together through lasers, which makes their language incredibly fast.

The net of satellites is lower in orbit than typical satellites. The fishing net design speeds up their communication times, and it reduces the chance that they will become space junk. Slow internet is often called “lag” and the projected lag time for Starlink internet is expected to be 15 milliseconds, which is impossible for people to notice.

The speed should be twice that of typical residential cable internet services. Along with speeding up service, the service will be cheap and accessible. In our highly developed world, there are around 3 billion people who do not have internet access. The goal of SpaceX and Starlink is to change this.

How Many Rockets Are Launching?

Elon Musk has been working on Starlink and SpaceX for a while. The first rocket launched on May 24, 2019. That rocket delivered 60 satellites to begin the project. SpaceX followed that with a launch in November 2019, then two in January 2020. One rocket launched in February of this year and another in March.

The two most recent were on May 31 and June 3. More are expected soon with a plan for at least one rocket launch per month in 2020.

How Will Starlink Shrink the Digital Divide?

When people have access to the internet, they are less likely to live in poverty. According to the United Nations, internet access improves health care, financial standing, and equality. Starlink will bring internet access to the entire world.

Removing the internet-gap is key to bringing equality to the world. Currently, underground cables bring the internet into homes and offices. Those cables need to be installed, and this is not possible in some parts of the world. Cable-provided internet costs around $70 per month, which is too much for many families.

In some countries, sporadic internet access is five times as much as it costs in the United States. Imagine spending $350 per month for a limited amount of laggy, slow internet? Elon Musk developed Starlink to take away this problem.

The same United Nations report included the ideal price for internet access. Internet service should be 2% or less than the user’s average monthly salary to be considered affordable. For someone who makes $2500 monthly, that price would be $50 or less.

Impoverished areas of the world have limited internet access. The same is true in rural areas in the United States. Because it is tough to install cable across vast swaths of undeveloped land, rural internet can be tough to find. Rural internet users often rely on slow and expensive satellite internet, like DISH Network, but Starlink should be faster, less expensive, and better.

When Will Starlink Be Activated?

Elon Musk has already used Starlink internet, but it is not yet ready for world consumption. Before minimal coverage is ready for the world, SpaceX needs to launch at least 400 satellites. SpaceX is launching satellites every month in 2020.

Once everyone can access affordable and speedy internet, communication will improve. Everyone will have access to video conferencing and online employment opportunities. They will also have access to entertainment options like online gaming tournaments and live virtual concerts. Life will improve dramatically for people who have been denied internet access for so long.

Even though most of the world will be able to access Starlink in 2021, SpaceX will continue to launch satellites through 2023. By this time, the satellite internet service should be robust and speedy.

Once everyone is able to access affordable internet, communication will improve. Everyone will have access to video conferencing and online employment opportunities. They will also have access to entertainment options like online gaming tournaments and live virtual concerts. Life will improve dramatically for people who have been denied internet access for so long.

Internet Access While Traveling

If you have traveled on an airplane or cruise ship, you know that internet access while on the road or asea is expensive. With Starlink, accessing the internet while away from home shouldn’t be any different than when you go online at home.

How Will Starlink Work on Earth?

The satellites will communicate with each other to share information. But what happens when the data reaches the ground?

Starlink will send information to one million stations on Earth. These stations will use steerable antenna technology that relies on beamforming. SpaceX had to get approval from the FCC to use a Ku-band to send and receive data from the satellites.

On Earth, the stations will transmit and receive at present single strengths. The popular LTE networks send and receive data between 600MHz and 2.5GHz. Starlink’s Earth-bound stations will send and receive signals at a higher level, between 10.7GHz and 14.5GHz.

In your home, you will not have a modem or router to access Starlink internet. Instead, your home will have a terminal from Starlink and an antenna. These devices will communicate with one of the one million stations before sending your information to and from the satellites dotting the sky.

Because SpaceX is working so quickly to get the satellites in the sky, the company is asking the FCC to speed up their approval processes, too. The government agency is not known for moving quickly. But if SpaceX is going to get Starlink going, the government agency will need to perform more efficiently.

Controversy Surrounding Starlink

It might seem like bringing affordable internet to the world sounds perfect. But, a few controversies are surrounding the high-tech goal. One is that the satellites are visible from Earth. By the time all of the SpaceX satellites are in the sky, there will be over 12,000 to 40,000 of them. To the naked eye, they will look like tiny stars.

Astronomers do not like that these satellites will be interrupting the actual stars. The satellites are also interfering with high-powered cameras that give astronomers a look at faraway galaxies. You can track Starlink satellites in real-time.

Eco-Friendly High-Tech Satellites

Along with reusing rockets, SpaceX and Starlink are dedicated to keeping the system and process environmentally friendly. The companies are dedicated to reducing space junk – or on-orbit debris. Satellites eventually stop working. To keep them from dirtying up the sky, they will deorbit.

If the deorbiting process fails, the Earth’s atmosphere will destroy them in one to five years. Dead satellites at higher orbits will stay in space for hundreds or thousands of years.

Starlink satellites also weigh less than a typical satellite. They weigh less than 600 pounds. Some communications satellites at higher orbit weigh over six tons. They use a solar array to activate the krypton-powered engines.

The satellites also use an official Department of Defense debris tracking system to avoid space-debris collisions. On Earth, it is difficult to see, but space has many decaying satellites that need to be avoided. With technology aboard the satellites, human error disappears, and the satellites can avoid collisions on their own.

Vivian Choi

Vivian lives in Brooklyn. She went to school at Stony Brook University, where she studied Computer Science and English. She’s created apps, designed websites, and even published a few short stories. When she’s not coding or writing, she likes walking with her husky named Roscoe.