Starlink

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58 'Starlink' stories

March 2020 - October 2021

First announced in 2015, Starlink is a constellation of satellites by SpaceX intended to provide a high-speed and low-latency connection to the internet anywhere in the world. SpaceX hopes to bring the connection speed of Starlink up to 10 Gigabits per second. 

Each Starlink customer is shipped a roughly pizza box-sized receiver. This receiver must have a clear field of view of the sky. SpaceX’s app makes it easy to ensure your Starlink receiver has a wide enough view. This receiver has motorized control over the angle but also makes use of phased array antennas. 

phased array antenna essentially allows the angle of the radio waves to be controlled electronically. This provides far more granular control of the angle of connection, allowing the ground-based receiver to track the many Starlink satellites as they move overhead.

Geostationary VS Low Earth Orbit for satellite internet

Most current satellite internet networks are provided by satellites in an orbit at 35,786 km. This is known as geostationary orbit, as a satellite at that altitude traveling at about 3 km/s will be constantly above the same point on Earth. This is essential in order for one satellite to provide constant service to a specific area. 

Starlink satellites on the other hand are in low earth orbit at an altitude of about 550 km. This means that an individual satellite would be unable to provide consistent coverage over any given area. Instead, Starlink relies on thousands of satellites moving overhead so that as some move out of range, more come into range.

Launch of SpaceX Starlink satellites. Photo: Jared Base

This means that the same number of satellites covering a population hub like New York will also be covering more rural areas at the same latitude. Many of these extremely rural areas are not large enough communities for a high-speed wired internet connection. So Starlink will provide a high-speed and low latency connection where access was previously has been unavailable.

The FCC found that 19 million Americans lack access to a fixed broadband service that meets their basic threshold speeds. Being so much closer to the surface allows the smaller area that each Starlink satellite can service to have both lower latency and a higher speed.

https://spaceexplored.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/10/2021/03/SpaceX_Falcon9_Starlink17_Deployment.mp4
Deployment of 60 Starlink Satellites. Credit: SpaceX

Starlink is not just for Americans. Starlink Satellites will fly across the globe, over every country and ocean. It will take time, but Starlink will expand. Long term, Starlink could be used on ships and moving vehicles. 

Recently, SpaceX has been launching so many Starlink missions they have become a regular occurrence on Florida’s Space Coast. With this many launches, it has become hard to keep track of all the important moments from the program.

January 2015: Initial Announcement

SpaceX announces a plan for the SpaceX Seattle facility to focus on the development of a constellation of satellites for global communication. Elon touted it as “rebuilding the internet in space.” His long-term vision included providing just 10% of local internet traffic but 50% of all backbone traffic.

May 2015: FCC Filings

FCC filings reveal SpaceX has plans for two experimental satellites.

November 2016: FCC application for Satellite Constellation

FCC filing for a 4,425 satellite constellation. Which would make it the largest constellation of satellites ever built.

2017: Two Test Satellites Used in Ground testing

The first two test satellites were used in ground testing, with a launch on two new test satellites planned for 2018.

February 2018: LAUNCH! The First Flying Test Satellites – TinTin V0.1

SpaceX sent along TinTin A & B on the PAZ Falcon 9 flight as co-payloads to test ground to orbit communications.

SpaceX successfully launched the first 60 production design satellites on their first dedicated Starlink mission. The launch took place on a Falcon 9 launch from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The first 60 operation Satellites were launched from a Falcon 9 which took flight from SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

On this Starlink mission, one “DarkSat” included a new anti-reflecting coating designed to cut the brightness down to nearly half. This addressed concerns from the astronomy community that feared the bright satellites would ruin their nighttime observations.

This launch included one “VisorSat” with a sunshade designed to further reduce the reflectivity of the satellites. The previous DarkSat coating was helpful but was unable to totally address the astronomy community’s concerns.

July 2020: Internal Private Beta Test Begins

SpaceX began allowing employees, their families, and some friends to get early access to the Starlink program. With a limited number of satellites in orbit, connectivity was far from reliable, but this allowed them to test communicating to many more dishes and address any problems that came to light.

October 2020: Public “Better Than Nothing” Beta Program Begins in U.S.

SpaceX set expectations low for this beta. Informing users that there will be periods with no connectivity whatsoever, and expecting speeds between 50 and 150 Mbps. Despite the intermittent connectivity, this connection was far more useful than anything SpaceX’s target customers previously had access to. With the start of the program also came the price: $499 for the initial hardware and $99/month for the service.

January 2021: Public Beta Expands to Canada and U.K.

SpaceX began expanding the same “Better Than Nothing” beta program to the U.K. and Canada. Being at a higher latitude there is a slightly higher density of satellites, meaning fewer outages.

This was an important launch for many reasons. In addition to surpassing 1,000 satellites, this was also breaking reuse records. At the time, it was the fastest turnaround time at 38 days. It was also the first 8th flight of a booster.

January 2021: LAUNCH! Polar Starlink Satellites – Transporter-1

On the Transporter-1 rideshare mission, SpaceX flew 10 operational Starlink satellites at a 97.5-degree polar orbit. These 10 satellites are also the first to have laser arrays to allow for communication between the satellites rather than just between an individual satellite and ground stations.

Currently, Starlink is being rolled out to a limited number of customers who signed up on their website. You can currently enter your service address to be informed when Starlink will become available in your area.

Mid to Late 2021

SpaceX plans to roll out coverage to the whole United States by Mid to late 2021. With plans in place for at least 20 other countries, we can expect this expansion of the Starlink network to continue.

August 2021

Starlink surpasses 100k terminals shipped to customers. Starlink now serves fourteen countries, with more applications to serve many other countries currently pending.

September 2021: Looking ahead to 2022

Launches of Starlink following the completion of the first orbital shell will all have laser interconnects. These satellite interconnects will become active in roughly 4-6 months, allowing satellites to communicate with each other when local ground stations are not available.

SpaceX started launching the newer V1.5 Starlink Satellites with the launch of Starlink mission 2-1. This mission is also the first Starlink launch from Vandenberg.

October 2021: Starlink set to exit Beta period

According to a tweet by Elon Musk, Starlink is set to exit its public beta program in October. An important step in rolling out the internet service to the world.

Starlink Launch Timeline

MissionDate (UTC)# of
Starlinks
Booster #Notable Information
Tintin v0.12 Feb 20182B1038-2-Test Satellites
-Deployed as rideshare to Paz satellites
Starlink v0.924 May 201960B1049-3-First 60 production design satellites
Starlink V1.0 L111 Nov 201960B1048-4
Starlink V1.0 L27 Jan 202060B1049-4-One less reflective, DarkSat test satellite
Starlink V1.0 L329 Jan 202060B1051-3
Starlink V1.0 L417 Feb 202060B1056-4
Starlink V1.0 L518 Mar 202060B1048-4
Starlink V1.0 L622 Apr 202060B1051-4
Starlink V1.0 L74 Jun 202060B1049-5-One VisorSat with test Sun Shade
Starlink V1.0 L813 Jun 202058B1059-3-Three rideshare Planetlabs satellites
joined on rideshare
Starlink V1.0 L97 Aug 202057B1051-5-Two Blacksky sats joined on rideshare
-All Satellites has Sun Shade
Starlink V1.0 L1018 Aug 202058B1049-6-Three rideshare Planetlabs satellites
joined on rideshare
Starlink V1.0 L113 Sep 202060B1060-2
Starlink V1.0 L126 Oct 202060B1058-3
Starlink V1.0 L1318 Oct 202060B1051-6
Starlink V1.0 L1424 Oct 202060B1060-3
Starlink V1.0 L1525 Nov 202060B1049-7
Starlink V1.0 L1620 Jan 202160B1051-8-First 8th flight of a booster
-1000 Starlinks in Orbit
-38-day booster turnaround (record)
Transporter-124 Jan 202110B1058-5-First dedicated rideshare mission.
-First 10 in Polar Orbit
-First 10 with Laser Sat-Sat Communication
-560km orbit(10km higher orbit than usual)
Starlink V1.0 L184 Feb 202160B1060-5
Starlink V1.0 L1916 Feb 202160B1059-6-Falcon 9 booster failed to land
Starlink V1.0 L174 Mar 202160B1049-8
Starlink V1.0 L2011 Mar 202160B1058-6
Starlink V1.0 L2114 Mar 202160B1051-9
Starlink V1.0 L2224 Mar 202160B1060-6
Starlink V1.0 L237 Apr 202160B1058-7
Starlink V1.0 L2429 Apr 202160B1060-7
Starlink V1.0 L254 May 202160B1049-9
Starlink V1.0 L279 May 202160B1051-10-First Falcon 9 booster to fly 10 times
Starlink V1.0 L2615 May 202152B1058-8
Starlink V1.0 L2826 May 202160B1063-2-First fifth flight of a Fairing
-Final launch of first Starlink shell
Transporter-230 June 20213B1060-8-Second launch of Polar Starlink satellites
Starlink Group 2-114 Sep 202151B1049-10-Dedicated polar Starlink mission
-Starlink V1.5 satellites
-First Starlink launch from Vandenberg SFB