Long-Term Business Outlook of SpaceX’s Starlink Project?

Elon Musk is on a venture to sell internet connections to almost everyone under the sun. His way of doing this is by growing a network of private satellites that will orbit overhead. Starlink refers to the satellite network that Elon’s company, SpaceX, is developing. The aim is to ensure access to low-cost internet in remote locations. The company’s outlook is to have as many as 42,000 satellites in what it refers to as a mega constellation. As it currently is, the scale and size of this Starlink project have astounded amateur skywatchers and astronomers. They fear that the orbiting objects in the constellation will interfere with the natural elements of the universe.

Revealing the Project

SpaceX first announced the satellite internet proposal in January 2015. The project did not have a name then, but the company’s CEO had already filed documents with international regulators. In the proposal, the aim is to place about 4,000 satellites on low-orbit Earth. In the long-term, the outcome will be to rebuild the internet space.

According to Musk, the Starlink network can provide “minor” internet coverage as soon as 400 spacecraft are up and running. By the time about 800 spacecraft are operational, there will be “moderate” coverage.

The efforts of SpaceX in this venture seem to be accelerating. This is after acquiring grant funds from the Federal Communications Commission. The $885.5 million fund has so far facilitated the launch of over 1,700 satellites as of May 2021. Earlier in February, the company revealed a customer base of over 10,000 people. It is now in the process of expanding to reach even more potential customers. The company’s top priority is those people who live without high-speed internet.

Collaboration with Airlines

The team behind the Starlink project is doing an excellent job in ensuring that the company captures the estimated $1 trillion worldwide connectivity. The bigger picture is to help the market achieve the CEO’s Mars colonization vision. The team is in talks with various airlines, hoping that they will beam internet to their airplanes. The move to expand Starlink from rural homes and onto airlines is part of the expected move for the company. This is as the company races to launch a commercial broadband network later this year.

Additionally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has allowed the company to fly 12,000 Starlink satellites. Part of the paperwork that the company filed in January with international regulators is to help it to loft up to an additional 300,000 spacecraft.

The VP of Starlink and commercial sales, Jonathan Hoffeller, said that the company has its own aviation product in the pipeline. The design of the airline antennae will be very similar to the technology used inside the consumer terminals. However, it will have several other enhancements to enable aviation connectivity. SpaceX is responsible for the design and development of aviation hardware. The design of the airborne antennas is such that they can link with ground stations for communication with Starlink satellites.

How Starlink Satellites Work

According to Sky and Telescope magazine, the current version of each Starlink satellite weighs 250 kilograms. Instead of sending signals through electric cables, they will work by beaming information through the vacuum of space. They are convenient because they don’t require the physical laying down of lines to reach far-flung places. Instead, the beams travel 47% faster than fiber-optic cables.

The satellite internet uses large spacecraft that orbit over 35,700 kilometers above a given spot on the Earth. However, at a distance, the satellites experience significant time delays in sending and receiving data. Since Starlink’s satellites will be closer to Earth and work by networking, they carry large amounts of information at rapid speeds. The transformation is unobstructed over oceans and in hard-to-reach places where fiber-optic cables would be inconvenient to lay down.

How Fast is Starlink’s Internet Services?

The information available on the Starlink website says that users can expect to receive data speeds of about 50 to 150 megabits per second. The latency is expected to be from 20 to 40 milliseconds in most locations for the next several months. The website also warns users to expect periods of no connectivity at all. However, as the company launches more satellites and installs more ground stations, this is bound to change. It will also improve its networking software to enhance uptime, latency, and data speed significantly.

In February, Musk tweeted that he predicted that Starlink would double up its speed to 300 Mbps by the end of 2021.

One user that has already signed up for the service is CNET’s, John Kim. He used the service at his California home and reports enjoying an average speed of about 78 Mbps and latency of 36ms. He has also started testing out the service in various other locations.

Where is Starlink Available?

Starlink is filling out its constellation with regular launches, and the prediction is that the future satellites will even be better. The service is currently limited to the northwest US but is rolling out in Germany, UK, and Canada. However, the company has some hurdles to overcome for the venture to be successful. These include:

  • Getting inter-satellite optical link hardware at cheaper rates
  • Getting Starship to help in the launch. With the short FCC deadlines to get the first 12,000 satellites operational, it will be hard to rely on just one partner. Currently, Falcon 9 needs to build a second stage for every 60 satellites launched.
  • Reducing the manufacturing costs, currently estimated to be $1,000-2,000 for each user phased array antenna.

The company still has a lot to do, with at least 10,000 more satellites needed in orbit before claiming global coverage.

Final Thoughts

SpaceX plans to work with organizations and agencies to achieve the desired impact of its mega constellation. Despite the controversy from astronomers over the constellation’s effect on the night sky, SpaceX is committed to providing high-speed internet worldwide.

The whole idea about this connectivity is mind-boggling for many people in many ways. There are concerns about potential pollution and other issues that may arise from the satellite. If you’d like more information about the Starlink project and how it affects your business, experts from SEMTech IT Solutions are available to guide you. Contact us today with any business networking and connectivity questions you may have.

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