Game changing ubiquitous broadband en route to you via laster links
At Lynxotic we have been following the development of the Starlink Satellite broadband with keen interest since 2019. In the early days it was all about the plans from various contending companies, though SpaceX was always far ahead in it’s technological system and, due to the spectacular success of SpaceX, as a launching and re-launching behemoth.
Now, with a launch schedule that is industry leading, by far, along with help from additional funding sources, and as the beta test phase continues, this is starting to look like a system that, even by 2022-2024 could impact the world in many of the extreme ways we have been anticipating.
Newest announcement marks more than a milestone, it’s a new game entirely
The first two Starlink satellites, Tintin A and Tintin B, were launched on February 22, 2018. At that time there were many companies with various technical solutions for the best way to create a satellite based broadband internet service.
Starlink at that time was planned to be a unique system using a large number of satellites (up to 42,000, potentially) and an even larger number of small base stations (up to over 1 million). Another system dubbed “LeoSat”, now defunct, had a more ambitious approach, in terms of the speed goals, which was to establish a commercial level “terrestrial backbone in space” using satellites directly connected to each other via lasers.
By putting a router on a satellite and having all the satellites interconnected in space with lasers rather than fiber, LeoSat would create a terrestrial backbone in space with all the features and benefits that traditional terrestrial backbones and networks have — but now with the benefits of space.
-Ronald van der Breggen, former Chief Commercial Officer at LeoSat
The project, which was the most technologically ambitious at the time, in ways that were nearly opposite from SpaceX’s Starlink, failed to hang on to its $2 billion investment commitments, and went under after only six months during the initial start up phase.
Both the technical proposal of using satellites directly connected to each other via laser in order to achieve speeds faster than current terrestrial backbone fiber bases systems, along with the commercial potential of servicing high end business customers, has now seemingly dove-tailed into a typical best-case-scenario for, who else but, you guessed it, Elon Musk and SpaceX.
The void left by LeoSat’s demise left a hole in the future of satellite broadband. And now, the question of who would fill the $2 billion concept-space left by LeoSat, appears to be nearly confirmed by Elon Musk.
Ultimately, the more pertinent question is: ‘Who is offering similar services and can benefit from LeoSat’s demise?”
-Ronald van der Breggen
By taking the key technology that is still at the forefront of satellite development in 2021, and fashioning a way to transition its use into his growing constellation that would eventually incorporate laser links between satellites, in addition to the ground stations, Starlink’s future has suddenly morphed into one with an entirely new scope and potential.
How, when and what will be possible if all continues apace
With a few tweets Elon Musk has caused a stir (surprise) and released enough news to paint a whole new picture of what the future of Starlink and world internet might look like in the coming years.
Over the projected time frame it will require to get to many thousands of satellites launched, even at the current pace of around 120 per month, the system would, conceivably, expand in coverage, speed and performance at a steady pace with 1500 satellites added yearly.
Naturally more launches could speed this up, and it will be an ongoing experiment to determine what kind of coverage and performance are possible as the constellation takes shape with milestones in the build-out during the ongoing process.
One impediment to a rapid race, to the loftiest end goal of worldwide coverage at 10Gbps, is cost. Currently the cost of the laser upgrade is prohibitive.
“Bringing down the cost of the space lasers and producing a lot of them fast is a really hard problem that the team is still working on.”
Having an orbiting 10Gbps terrestrial backbone in space with worldwide access would be a “Ludicrous Mode” for the internet
Really, that’s a huge understatement. The system would be a continuous boon, not only to the current uses for connected human communication, but for uses as yet impossible or barely possible with current systems.
And, oh yes, not only would the speed and connectivity be of a different order of magnitude but it would enable de-centralization of connected humans (WFH, anyone?) on a scale barely imaginable today.
Oddly, this could be a “just-in-time” invention (similar to Musk’s “Plan B” to use a Mars exodus as a final escape from a dying planet) that could enable a transition to rural and sparsely inhabited areas if, or when, global warming puts highly populated coastlines under water all around the world.
The vast problems facing humanity, medical, economic, even political and scientific, could all benefit from more connected communication among the minds that are already working hard to find solutions.
Indeed, it is somehow fitting that Musk, and not a rapacious-greed-monster like Amazon, could add, via SpaceX yet another world-saving tool into his kit. Tesla is already a sustainable energy conglomerate thinly disguised as a S3XY car company, and in a slightly more round-about way, SpaceX is, in essence, the back-up plan in case becoming an interplanetary species is no longer optional after the ravages of the climate crisis.
Now, with Starlink looking like a compatible engine for the acceleration of positive change, via networked communication and education, which is desperately needed as a resource to help drive the first two endeavors, a world reducing trifecta seems possible.
Whatever one may think of Elon Musk’s charismatically quirky personality and twitter feed, right now his enterprises are light years ahead and the reason, beyond once in a century genius, is the right mission and motivation: saving us all from ourselves.
Some key stats:
- Current “better than nothing” beta speeds for testing volunteers: 100 to 150 megabits per second.
- The long term goal, once the laser link system is fully implemented is to enable speeds of up to 10Gbps (!) Speed estimated are believed to factor in the speed of light being around 50 percent faster through a vacuum (space) than through glass (fiber)
- Number of satellites launched to date : 1,023 out of an eventual 42,000 applied for
- Coverage: Initially cities and especially rural areas in North America and branching out to worldwide access once the size of the constellation increases enough. Continuous software and hardware updates are planned with a planned life expectancy for each satellite of up to four years, allowing for newer, improved models to replace the retired units.
- Once all various components are in place there is a plan to achieve a resilient network utilizing “multiple routing options to every Starlink and Gateway.”
- Altitude: low-earth-orbit: SpaceX has applied with the FCC for permission first-generation satellites in orbits from 540 to 570 kilometers (336 to 354 miles), in addition to the originally approved range of 1,100 to 1,325 kilometers (684 to 823 miles). This has annoyed possible competitors (mainly Jeff Bezos’ “Project Kuiper”)
- “Since being granted its own ‘license,’ Amazon has engaged in continuous campaign to undermine authorizations from competitors,” SpaceX noted in a statement
If you want to participate in the “Better Than Nothing Beta”, register on the Starlink website to register for the public beta. Please bear in mind that the program is currently limited to users in select regions in the northern US. The price for the Beta service is $99 a month plus a $499 one-time fee for the equipment.
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