Monday, February 17, 2020

Internet From The Stars: 21st Century Space Race

Jaime Jones, NuWaves Engineering, February 17, 2020

Two weeks ago, SpaceX launched it’s third successful mission placing 60 more Starlink satellites into low earth orbit, bringing the total number of global internet powering satellites to 180. That is far from the planned system completion threshold of 12,000, but it does establish that SpaceX has the formula down and isn’t going to stop any time soon. While 12,000 may be a few years away, Elon Musk, founder and CEO of SpaceX, has stated that 400 satellites would provide “minor” internet coverage and 800 satellites would achieve “moderate” or significant operational” coverage. Each subsequent launch of 60 satellites would deliver 1 terabit of bandwidth, potentially supporting 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at once. It’s safe to say with numbers like those, internet from space is going to be a house hold topic for years to come.

Musk has stated that one of the primary reasons for creating the Starlink system was to bring low cost internet to all areas of the globe and to give traditional telecommunication companies more realistic competition. Everyone is familiar with how current telecom companies have monopolized local areas, establishing themselves as the only viable internet options in the process. But how will competition work with space internet? There aren’t any wires in run in space, so can there be infinite companies providing service through satellites?

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