Last week, Elon Musk’s space research company SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into Earth’s orbit foreseeing the beginning of a global internet service. SpaceX used its Falcon 9 reusable rocket to carry the Starlink satellites into a low orbit, for them to enable an international broadband connection that is seen to be active by 2020.

The company has confirmed that the 60 satellites have been successfully launched from Florida and deployed in an orbit at 550 kilometres from Earth. The expensive mission has already been delayed in the past due to poor weather conditions like strong winds, according to a report by Reuters.

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The idea behind the satellites that represent the initial phase of a “planned constellation”, is to be able to beam signals for high-speed internet service from space that can be available to customers around the globe.

SpaceX, the private rocket company of high-tech entrepreneur Elon Musk, launched the first batch of 60 small satellites into low-Earth orbit on Thursday for Musk’s new Starlink internet service.

By next year, Starlink is hoping to launch 720 satellites and bring global Internet services to the most populated regions on Earth. According to a report, Musk is expecting Starlink services to bring in an annual income of $3 billion.

The Falcon 9’s main-stage reusable booster rocket flew back to Earth for a successful landing on a barge floating in the Atlantic.

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Musk is also the chief executive officer of automaker Tesla Inc.

When the Starlink satellites were launched, they looked like a trail of moving lights through the sky. However, those unaware of the launch reported that they had seen UFOs.

How Starlink will create a global internet service

The starlink network will use a total 12,000 low-orbit satellites that will move in three different orbital shells about 500 to 1,300 kilometres above the Earth. The pre-planned constellation will deliver hi-speed internet. The next-generation satellite network is capable of connecting the globe, with an aim to enable reliable and affordable broadband internet services.

These satellites will patch internet services through to a receiver worth $200 or around Rs 14,000 that can be installed in homes, airplanes, ships, and more. The Starlink satellites will get radio wave signals from stations on Earth and use lasers to transmit those waves back to the closest installed receiver.

These satellites are powered by one solar array/ a panel that uses sunlight to generate energy. According to the company, these satellites are equipped with one solar array instead of two, in an effort to minimize potential points of failure.

Each satellite weighs about 500 pounds (227 kg), making them the heaviest payload carried to space by SpaceX to date.

At least 12 launches, carrying similar payloads are needed to achieve a constant internet coverage of most of the world, Musk said.
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This new Starlink venture is seen as a new revenue stream which is important for Musk’s California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, he expects the launch income to be $3 billion a year. He told reporters last week that by making Starlink an income enabler, he wants to fund his eventual goals of developing a new spacecraft that will enable paying customers to fly to the moon and for eventually trying to colonize Mars.

“We think this is a key stepping stone on the way towards establishing a self-sustaining city on Mars and a base on the moon” – Elon Musk.

With advances in laser technology and computer chips, a technological shift enables tiny satellites to orbit closer to earth (in each network), as opposed to traditional communications satellites.

SpaceX would begin approaching customers later this year or next year. As many as 2,000 satellites will be launched per year, according to Musk, with the ultimate objective of placing up to 12,000 into orbit.

Issues with Starlink and promises for internet in India

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In April this year, India tested long-range missiles for Mission Shakti, and got heavily criticized by NASA for creating more space debris in the atmosphere. NASA even called this a “terrible, terrible” experiment that put the International Space Station in danger of collision courtesy the floating debris.

Similar concerns made rounds about Starlink satellites making way for increased space debris and space pollution. Musk however, put these rumours to rest with his tweet.

According to what he said, there are 4,900 Starlink satellites already in orbit, but they are hardly noticeable and have almost no impact on astronomy. He also put it out that just in case of any disturbance, it is still a fair trade-off if Starlink could create a breakthrough access for the internet. He further added that SpaceX would “love to” put Starlink telescopes in space to make up for any issues the astronomy community faces.

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Musk tweeted, “Exactly, potentially helping billions of economically disadvantaged people is the greater good. That said, we’ll make sure Starlink has no material effect on discoveries in astronomy. We care a great deal about science.”

Starlink however is only operational with US providers as of now, but major Indian parties – BJP and AAP, have also chalked out their own plans for greater internet and a better Internet connectivity in India. 

Infact, in the 2019 manifesto, BJP put out that it plans to ensure optic fiber internet connections in rural areas across India. The promise also included 175 gigawatts of renewable energy, and 100% electrification of all Indian households. Presently, the AAP government in Delhi is also been working with different models of hi-speed Wi-Fi, in an attempt to reach a conclusion as far as optical fibre home connections are concerned.

It is interesting to note that, in the year 2018, the AAP government said it was working on bringing optical fibre home connections, internet vouchers, and free Wi-Fi in the NCT region.

Read this interesting piece that talks extensively about optic fibre cables and Musk’s vision materializing.

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