Speaking at Tesla’s annual shareholder meeting, CEO Elon Musk – also CEO of SpaceX – briefly segued to his spaceflight company’s ambitious Starlink program and discussed how he believes the satellite constellation can support no more than 3-5% of the global population.
On May 23rd, SpaceX successfully launched 60 “v0.9” Starlink satellites – weighing as much as 18.5 tons (~41,000 lb) – into LEO, a first step unmatched in ambition in the history of commercial satellites. Delivered to an orbit of ~450 km (280 mi), all but four of the 60 spacecraft have managed to successfully power up their electric ion thrusters and 55 have already raised their orbits to ~500 km (310 mi). For what is effectively a technology/partial-prototype demonstration mission, the record of Starlink v0.9 performance is extremely impressive and bodes well for a quick and relatively easy design optimization (to “v1.0”) before true mass production can begin.
In general, Musk was more than willing to acknowledge some of the potential limitations of a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) broadband satellite constellation at Tesla’s 2019 shareholder meeting. Most notably, he bluntly noted that Starlink is not designed to service densely populated areas and will predominately be focused on low to medium-density populaces. Triggered by an investor’s question about the possibility of integrating Starlink into future Tesla cars, Musk reiterated that SpaceX’s first-generation Starlink user terminals (i.e. ground antennas) will be roughly the size of a “medium pizza”.
Although pizza sizing is not exactly ISO-certified, Starlink’s user antennas will presumably be around 12-14 inches (30-36 cm) wide and come in a square form factor. Thanks to the use of what Musk believes are the most advanced phased array antennas in the world, neither the antennas on Starlink satellites or user terminals will need to physically move to maintain a strong signal. Still, as Musk notes, an antenna the size of medium pizza box would still stick out like a sore thumb on the typically all-glass roof of an of Tesla’s consumer cars, although built-in Starlink antennas might actually make sense on Tesla Semis.
Elon Musk’s specific comment indicated that Starlink – at least in its current iteration – was never meant to serve more than “3-5%” of Earth (population: ~7.8 billion), with most or all of its users nominally located in areas with low to medium population densities. This generally confirms technical suspicions that Starlink (and other constellations like OneWeb and Telesat) is not really capable of providing internet to everyone per se.
Continue reading at TESLArati
In general, CEO Elon Musk’s comments serve as an excellent temper to the hype surrounding Starlink. SpaceX isn’t going to initially be breaking the backs of Comcast or Time Warner but there’s no reason to believe that that day will never come.
The Hill has the story:
Elon Musk’s SpaceX recently launched the first 60 satellites to test the concept of what will eventually be a constellation of thousands of satellites that are designed to bring high-speed internet to every corner of the Earth. When the constellation is complete, sometime in the mid-2020s, SpaceX thinks it can provide wi-fi services that are competitive with fiber optic cable in urban areas as well as to currently underserved rural parts of the planet.
Each satellite is small, equipped with a single solar panel, a krypton-fueled ion drive, a collision avoidance system, and the wherewithal to receive and send high-speed Wi-Fi transmissions. With SpaceX’s family of reusable rockets, Elon Musk can deploy Starlink relatively cheaply, for about $10 billion, according to one estimate.
At the end of their useful lives, the satellites will use their ion thrusters to crash back into the Earth’s atmosphere, burning up, and thus preventing them from becoming space debris.
The system would be a game changer for telecommunications and would provide SpaceX with an astonishing amount of revenue. How much revenue? A recent article in Next Big Future suggests that SpaceX could take in $40 billion a year, about twice the amount of NASA’s current annual budget. That number is comparable to what AT&T makes with Direct TV. What that extra shot of money will allow SpaceX to do is mind-boggling.
Continue reading HERE.
Let’s hope this is a factual article by a writer who understands the technology. However, I am troubled by the use of the term WiFi in this article. Some readers could think they can get connected to Starlink satellites by WiFi, which is not true. SpaceX is building a million ground terminals to communicate with the satellites. Their ground terminals may communicate with cell phones, laptops, and pads over WiFi, but there is another critical component in the communications chain, a $500.00 ground terminal.
Amazon has not launched any LEO Broadband Satellites like SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat but they already have a ground station network for controlling satellites, uploading and downloading data. Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, announces its availability in the video below:
The AWS Ground Station Network is a fully managed, ready-to-go ground station service, featuring:
- No upfront cost.
- Scaleability — you only pay for antenna time.
- No long-term contract.
- Self-service scheduling on a per-minute basis, that can be changed dynamically using their ground station console.
- Secure transmission.
- Low latency due to proximity to Amazon data centers.
- Integration with EC2, S3 and other Amazon services and Amazon’s global network backbone.
- Simultaneous up/download.
- Support of most common communication frequencies.
The open question is will SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat use this service?
According to the STARLINK Webpage HERE.
Starlink is targeted to offer service in the Northern U.S. and Canadian latitudes after six launches, rapidly expanding to global coverage of the populated world after an expected 24 launches. SpaceX is targeting two to six Starlink launches by the end of this year.
If you did not follow the first link, check out the very interesting Starlink web site HERE.
Light Reading has a 5G article that covers why this is important to potential rural customers. All the hype and concern about health issues has been about mmWave installation. Rural customers need to focus on the low band implementation of 5G, which both AT&T and T-Mobile have a role to play.
5G remains a hot topic in the wireless industry, but so far most 5G deployments have been done using millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum. Such spectrum generally sits above 20GHz and is able to transmit huge amounts of data but cannot travel more than a few thousand feet. Thus, today’s 5G mmWave networks from the likes of Verizon and AT&T only cover a handful of city blocks in a handful of large cities.
However, due to the physical propagation characteristics of low-band spectrum like 600MHz or 700MHz, operators like T-Mobile or AT&T could easily cover whole cities with just one cell tower. Thus, low-band spectrum will play a critical role in pushing 5G into more and more parts of the US.
The tradeoff though is that low-band spectrum can’t transmit as much data as mmWave spectrum. For example, Verizon’s mmWave 5G network has been averaging around 500Mbit/s with peaks above 1Gbit/s, while T-Mobile’s CTO has acknowledged that 5G on the operator’s 600MHz spectrum likely will clock in around 60-70Mbit/s. AT&T will probably see similar speeds on its 700MHz 5G network.
Well, 60-70 Mbits is better than no bits at all. Stay Tuned 5G is coming, the question is will SpaceX Statlink get there before rural 5G? If they both arrive in your neighborhood, will competition drive down the price? Yes! Capitalism is wonderful!
SpaceX’s new array of Starlink communication satellites has even the most jaded of satellite observers agog with excitement as they move across the sky.
On Thursday evening (May 23), SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellites are in good health and are the first of a planned 12,000-satellite megaconstellation to provide internet access to people on Earth.
The satellites, which are now orbiting at approximately 273 miles (440 km) above the Earth, are putting on a spectacular show for ground observers as they move across the night sky.
Continue Reading HERE.
Last night (May 23), SpaceX lofted the first five dozen members of its Starlink broadband constellation to low-Earth orbit (LEO) using one of the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rockets. Starlink is designed to provide internet connectivity to people around the world, and it will do so using a truly enormous number of satellites.
Starlink won’t be able to provide “minor” coverage until about 400 spacecraft are up and running, and “moderate” coverage requires about 800 operational satellites, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said. But the company doesn’t plan to stop at “moderate.”
More details HERE including a video of the launch.