Starlink satellites

Starlink satellites

What are the Starlink satellites?

Starlink is a constellation, or system of satellites for providing Internet connections to ground stations on the Earth. The finished constellation will include 11,953 satellites in three different orbitals. They’ll be in several dozen planes separated by a few miles of altitude to ensure that there will be no collisions, but those will be grouped into three main bands.
These consist of 4,425 satellites orbiting at 550 to 1100 kilometers that compose most of the original network, and 7,518 satellites t will be added later to create the super high light speed local networks in even lower orbits than the original satellites at about 330 kilometers.
If you’re saying to yourself, “oh god, that’s a whole lot of satellites in our orbit,” you’d be right. Currently, the world is using between 6000–7,000 operational satellites at any time in our orbit, so this would represent a new era in large number constellation satellites.
While the first you’re wondering about, “That’s a whole lot of mass to get to orbit,”. the idea of using very large numbers of satellites has a lot of advantages in the communication system, at least when talking about satellite to ground communications.

Starlink is a constellation, or system of satellites for providing Internet connections to ground stations on the Earth. The finished constellation will include 11,953 satellites in three different orbitals. They’ll actually be in several dozen planes separated by a few miles of altitude to ensure that there will be no collisions, but those will be grouped into three main bands.

These consist of 4,425 satellites orbiting at 550 to 1100 kilometers that compose most of the original network, and 7,518 satellites t will be added later to create the super high light speed local networks in even lower orbits than the original satellites at about 330 kilometers.

If you’re saying to yourself, “oh god, that’s a whole lot of satellites in our orbit,” you’d be right. Currently, the world is using between 6000–7,000 operational satellites at any time in our orbit, so this would definitely represent a new era in large number constellation satellites.

While the first you’r wondering about, “That’s a whole lot of mass to get to orbit,”. the idea of using very large numbers of satellites has a lot of advantages in the communication system, at least when talking about satellite to ground communications.

Starlink Satellite system

These all of satellites, at least going by the two test satellites, and the job postings from SpaceX will be using a tec called phased array antennas for communicating to the ground. What was the meaning of this phased array antenna’s, rather than using giant satellite dish antennas most people think of on communication satellites, the Starlink satellites will be using a flat array of thousands of tiny antennas that will be tuned in software to create extremely powerful and extremely sensitive good virtual antennas.

The upshot of this is, instead of needing big dish antennas, like in the 1970’s satellite TVs, or even the small dish of the Direct TV or Dish network satellites, you will only need a flat and squarish antenna about the size of a small shoebox to communicate data to the satellites.

The signal is transmitted via KA and KU band radio waves, the same bands that the police using for Radar guns, but in a different frequency set of waves. These are well known and well-studied radio bands, and a lot of existing hardware there for receiving them. This isn’t a new science in other words it is a simple science.

The satellites will communicate with each other using fiber optic cables. well, sort of. They will be using the world’s best optical media to send laser signals — a hard vacuum to communicate with each other. In other words, each satellite will communicate with its nearest neighbors using laser light-based links. This means all communication happens at the speed of the light between the two satellites, and yet is more or less totally secure, as the lase light signal can only be read by a satellite in the exact position of the target, or a line along its orbit. (Understanding this gets complex, but basically the laser light is always moving to track the other satellite, and that makes it really hard to intercept.)

So, you have a secure satellite to satellite network using laser light and the speed of light, that will likely be encrypted as well for a secure connection, and the ground to space link is over radio frequency that’s well understood.

The second wave of 7,518 satellites is to provide even more network traffic, by being closer to the ground and thus shortening the ground-to-satellite delay of time. They’ll also add the option of that called “skipping levels” to get better performance. In other words, the first pass of satellites has to send traffic only to their nearest satellite neighbor, who can send it on to their neighbors and so on. In certain cases — for the certain origin and destination locations — this can mean a lot of “hops” across satellites that would rather just be orbital routing local traffic.

The broadband system will orbit below the ground link satellites in a lower orbit, using the higher 4000 plus satellites as a “dump off” for long-distance traffic. This will let the low-level local satellites only deal with “short hops” for transfers and otherwise shunting the work off to the broadband satellites in the higher orbits.

These all satellites, at least going by the two test satellites, and the job postings from SpaceX will be using a tec called phased array antennas to communicate to the ground. What was the meaning of this phased array antenna’s, rather than using giant satellite dish antennas most people think of on communication satellites, the Starlink satellites will be using a flat array of thousands of tiny antennas that will be tuned in software to create extremely powerful and extremely sensitive good virtual antennas.
The upshot of this is, instead of needing a big dish antenna, like in the 1970’s satellite TVs, or even the small dish of the Direct TV or Dish network satellites, you will only need a flat and squarish antenna about the size of a small shoebox to communicate data to the satellites.
The signal is transmitted via KA and KU band radio waves, the same bands that the police using for Radar guns, but in a different frequency set of waves. These are well known and well-studied radio bands, and a lot of existing hardware there for receiving them. This isn’t a new science in other words it’s simple science.
The satellites will communicate with each other using fiber optic cables. well, sort of. They will be using the world’s best optical media to send laser signals a hard vacuum to communicate with each other. In other words, each satellite will communicate with its nearest neighbors using laser light-based links. This means all communication happens at the speed of the light between the two satellites, and yet is more or less secure, as the lase light signal can only be read by a satellite in the exact position of the target, or a line along its orbit. (Understanding this gets complex, but basically, the laser light is always moving to track the other satellite, and that makes it hard to intercept.)
So, you have a secure satellite to satellite network using laser light and the speed of light, that will likely be encrypted as well for a secure connection, and the ground to space link is over radio frequency that’s well understood.
The second wave of 7,518 satellites is to provide even more network traffic, by being closer to the ground and thus shortening the ground-to-satellite delay of time. They’ll also add the option of that called “skipping levels” to get better performance. In other words, the first pass of satellites has to send traffic only to their nearest satellite neighbor, who can send it on to their neighbors and so on. In certain cases — for the certain origin and destination locations — this can mean a lot of “hops” across satellites that would rather just be orbital routing local traffic.
The broadband system will orbit below the ground link satellites in a lower orbit, using the higher 4000 plus satellites as a “dump off” for long-distance traffic. This will let the low-level local satellites only deal with “short hops” for transfers and otherwise shunting the work off to the broadband satellites in the higher orbits.

Why so many Starlink satellites they need?

Now we know that generally what is a Starlink .we can get to the first question of whether it’s feasible. Nearly 12,000 satellites in our orbit.

That’s where most people stumble over the system and throw their hands in the air or call Elon musk crazy. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a whole lot of satellites in our orbit.

But, the system is useful with a fraction of those. First reports say that it could become usefully active with 1,200 satellites in orbit. Elon Musk has said they want to pay customers by 2020, so that’s still a lot to get into the sky in a short amount of time. So, is he crazy?

Not really. The thing about the word “lot of satellites” is that it carries a lot of connotations.

so satellites are big expensive one of a kind

Most communications satellites are exactly like those. When AMOS-6 ( Affordable Modular Optimized Satellite) burned on the launch pad in 2016, estimates of the cost of the satellite were $244 Million. It also weighed 5.5Mt and it was the only one in existence, having been purpose-built for that flight. Add in the $50M credit SpaceX extended, or a free of $63M ride for the new satellite, and you’re talking close to a third of a billion dollars.

OK then

But, that’s where building 4,425 of these satellites makes more sense. Why does AMOS-6 cost that much? Because every tool you make to make a part of AMOS-6, every hour of engineering, design, science, research, calculation, and hard labor that goes into making that only piece — has to be charged against that one satellite(AMOS-6).

Think about it. They designed mounts to put signals on 36 areas in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Those beam guides were carefully calculated and designed, made out of steel by manufacturers, and carefully put into place by engineers, then tested and re-tested by highly-paid professionals.

Once with Starlink, they’re going to do the same sort of work, but instead of all the science and research, and figuring out how to make and manufacture parts going into just one satellite, they get to take everything they learn putting the first one together, and then build the whole satellites.

4,000 times plus. This means they get to amortize all the research and development costs 4,000 plus satellites. So a billion dollars of research and development works out to adding about $250,000 to the cost of each satellite, instead of adding a billion dollars to the cost of one satellite.

And, these things aren’t really expensive to build in terms of pure parts.

[Update: Following the prototype launch in May 2019, we now know the satellites cost less than $400,000 each to build. We know that because Elon musk straight up said at a press conference that the cost to launch the 60 Starlink satellites was more than it cost to make them. Knowing that the Falcon 9 re-flown price is about $40million, and assuming that SpaceX makes about a 40% profit margin per flight, that means that the flight cost them only about $24 million, and put 60 satellites into orbit. $24 million *60 = $400,000. So each satellite is costing less than some super-high-end moto sports cars.]

Sure, that’s a lot of money for you, but that’s a rounding error on most satellites. The Iridium Next satellites that SpaceX just finished launching were mass-produced in Arizona cost 81 satellites for $2.2 Billion, which works out to about $27 million each. Still not cheap, but 1/10th the cost of the “Affordable” AMOS-6 satellites.

This whole idea is known as economy of scale and SpaceX is already taking advantage of it on their Falcon rockets. By building on an assembly line, they reduced the cost of the rocket to the cheapest per kilometer rate on the market. By rapidly iterating on that standard design and they were able to perfect landing, which is going to take their cost down to fractions of what it is now.

And they will need it to launch those satellites.

Big AND Small thinking

The Starlink satellites differ from a lot of communication satellites used now by the fact they are relatively small. Tintin A and Tintin B are about the size of a table at launch (about 2m *1m from the accounts I can find) and expand to about 2m *20m in orbit when they extend the two 2mx8m solar panels. Each one weighed in at about 400 kilograms.

Elon musk said they were too big, and the final versions would be smaller than it. My guess is they’re aiming for a mass of around 250 kilograms. we are not sure they can get a lot smaller footprint wise, but it’s possible.

If they stay at 2mx1m, they could stack as many as 66 satellites inside of the standard Falcon 9 fairing and going in a two-layer cylinder, with 5 rows of 6 on the inner cylinder, and 3 rows of 12 on the outer cylinders. 66 satellites at 250 kilograms each is only 16.5 metric tons to low earth orbit. And one thing we know so far is that Starlink is aimed at low Earth orbit. Their latest filing says they are targeting an orbit of 550 kilometers high altitude.

Why so many Starlink satellites they need?

Now we know that generally what is a Starlink .we can get to the first question of whether it’s feasible. Nearly 12,000 satellites in our orbit.

That’s where most people stumble over the system and throw their hands in the air or call Elon musk crazy. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a whole lot of satellites in our orbit.

But, the system is useful with a fraction of those. First reports say that it could become usefully active with 1,200 satellites in orbit. Elon Musk has said they want to pay customers by 2020, so that’s still a lot to get into the sky in a short amount of time. So, is he crazy?

Not really. The thing about the word “lot of satellites” is that it carries a lot of connotations.

so satellites are big expensive one of a kind

Most communications satellites are exactly like those ones. When AMOS-6 ( Affordable Modular Optimized Satellite) burned on the launch pad in 2016, estimates of the cost of the satellite were $244 Million. It also weighed 5.5Mt and it was the only one in existence, having been purpose-built for that flight. Add in the $50M credit SpaceX extended, or a free of $63M ride for the new satellite, and you’re talking close to a third of a billion dollars.

OK then

But, that’s where building 4,425 of these satellites makes more sense. Why does AMOS-6 cost that much? Because every tool you make to make a part of AMOS-6, every hour of engineering, design, science, research, calculation, and hard labor that goes into making that one and only piece — has to be charged against that one satellite(AMOS-6).

Think about it. They designed mounts to put signals on 36 areas in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Those beam guides were carefully calculated and designed, made out of steel by manufacturers, and carefully put into place by engineers, then tested and re-tested by highly-paid professionals.

Once with Starlink, they’re going to do the same sort of work, but instead of all the science and research, and figuring out how to make and manufacture parts going into just one satellite, they get to take everything they learn putting the first one together, and then build the whole satellites.

4,000 times plus. This means they get to amortize all the research and development costs 4,000 plus satellites. So a billion dollars of research and development works out to adding about $250,000 to the cost of each satellite, instead of adding a billion dollars to the cost of one satellite.

And, these things aren’t really expensive to build in terms of pure parts.

[Update: Following the prototype launch in May 2019, we now know the satellites cost less than $400,000 each to build. We know that because Elon musk straight up said at a press conference that the cost to launch the 60 Starlink satellites was more than it cost to make them. Knowing that the Falcon 9 re-flown price is about $40million, and assuming that SpaceX makes about a 40% profit margin per flight, that means that the flight cost them only about $24 million, and put 60 satellites into orbit. $24 million *60 = $400,000. So each satellite is costing less than some super-high-end moto sports cars.]

Sure, that’s a lot of money for you, but that’s a rounding error on most satellites. The Iridium Next satellites that SpaceX just finished launching were mass-produced in Arizona cost 81 satellites for $2.2 Billion, which works out to about $27 million each. Still not cheap, but 1/10th the cost of the “Affordable” AMOS-6 satellites.

This whole idea is known as economy of scale and SpaceX is already taking advantage of it on their Falcon rockets. By building on an assembly line, they reduced the cost of the rocket to the cheapest per kilometer rate on the market. By rapidly iterating on that standard design and they were able to perfect landing, which is going to take their cost down to fractions of what it is now.

And they will need it to launch those satellites.

Big AND Small thinking

The Starlink satellites differ from a lot of communication satellites used now by the fact they are relatively small. Tintin A and Tintin B are about the size of a table at launch (about 2m *1m from the accounts I can find) and expand to about 2m *20m in orbit when they extend the two 2mx8m solar panels. Each one weighed in at about 400 kilograms.

Elon musk said they were too big, and the final versions would be smaller than it. My guess is they’re aiming for a mass of around 250 kilograms. we are not sure they can get a lot smaller footprint wise, but it’s possible.

If they stay at 2mx1m, they could stack as many as 66 satellites inside of the standard Falcon 9 fairing and going in a two-layer cylinder, with 5 rows of 6 on the inner cylinder, and 3 rows of 12 on the outer cylinders. 66 satellites at 250 kilograms each is only 16.5 metric tons to low earth orbit. And one thing we know so far is that Starlink is aimed at low Earth orbit. Their latest filing says they are targeting an orbit of 550 kilometers high altitude.


[Update: they make those satellites amazingly small. Like 30 cm thick (The actual prototype Starlink satellites v0.9 stack of 60 satellites waiting to be loaded into the fairings.)

But why so many satellites?

Because this is why so many other satellite internet companies have failed… you need to be able to see a satellite to use it. If you want one of your satellites to be in view at all of the times, you have two choices. Either you put it the way the heck up there with those geosynchronous satellites being the ultimate example of this, visible to about half the planet at once, but orbiting 40,000 kilometers high or you build lots of satellites.

Companies like Iridium compromised by building a lot of satellites and putting them in moderately low earth orbits of 781 kilometers.

This gives them exactly enough coverage to cover the surface of the earth with one satellite, or two satellites in view from any point at any time.

so then if you have a tree in the way? Or a house, or a thunderstorm? Simple, You get no signal.

So, how does the Starlink (SpaceX) fix this? You go to apparently insane levels by orbiting 4,425 satellites, you guarantee that any point on Earth has at least 20 satellites in view, and probably closer to 50, at any given time.

That means you get to choose from 20 or more satellites for your signals. you’re never getting blocked or jam the signals. That means solid, reliable, and fast internet anywhere on Earth. The middle of the desert or the middle of the ocean or anywhere.

If a satellite fails, you still have at least 19 satellites to serve you. And it gives you time to get up a spare satellite. If Iridium loses one satellite it means they have a dead spot in their coverage area. It’s why they launched 75 satellites but only 66 are active from the whole 77 satellites. So when one fails, they can move one of the 9 spares into its orbit just to maintain coverage. Until they do that, there’s a hole over 1.6% of the Earth coverage. With thousands of satellites, losing one or two, heck, even 10 satellites isn’t a big deal for the coverage of earth.

That’s why you have so many satellites.

Does satellite internet suck?

Actually Yes, currently satellite internet sucks for home use. That’s because things like HughesNet are only half based on satellite internet. They use your phone line to upload data because their satellites can only broadcast down to the Earth, they can’t receive.

The idea of StarLink is to have both directions be phased array antennas, sending signals, and receiving. That’s fast sometimes faster than the current wired infrastructure internet connections. Again, according to Elon’s tweet

Someone did a study on this and determined that Starlink satellite connection could outperform most of our current fiber-optic network infrastructure because of the circuitous route it often has to take to get to places and while Starlink will have laser light connection along shortest routes. A laser light traveling in space moves up to 50% faster than a laser light traveling through a fiber optic cable because the glass slows it down.

Is it Starlink satellites Feasible?

Well, we’ve seen why building thousands of satellites can be cheaper than building one satellite, and SpaceX has the lift capability to do it so that they make it entirely possible for them to do it. The product they will have will be highly desirable and performance-oriented, thus salable. That’s pretty much the meaning of the word feasible after all.

What are those Unintended Consequences?

The biggest unintended consequence we’ve seen so far is just how big a success this system can be. we are not seen that much popularity of it.

SpaceX just filed a request with The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to license 1 million ground stations for 2020. If they can sell 1 million subscriptions at $100 each for a month, that’s $1.2 billion a year. That means doubling SpaceX’s revenue from 2018 when they launched 24 flights at $63 million each.

But $100 is sort of steep for the internet, even if it is GIGABYTE SPEED So, what if he offers it for $50 a month?

Suddenly, he will be cheaper than almost every broadband provider out there, and instead of a million customers, he’s got 10 million subscriptions, and he’s raking in $6 Billion a year. At that point, the launch part of SpaceX is an afterthought on the space x balance sheet.

And if he lowers it to $25 a month, he’s going to get pretty much everyone in the U.S. signed on Starlink. That’s 100 million households and $30billion a year in revenue for StarLink.

And the $10B buy-in costs to get the system up and running don’t seem so bad any more foe Elon Musks.

And let’s not stop there. This network doesn’t end at the borders of the united state after all. Let’s add in Europe, with its 140 million households, and you’re up into the $72 billion per year mark for Starlink.

And then there’s Asia, and Africa, and Australia and South America. There’s no reason not to start offering gigabit Internet there as well.

if it happens every person on Earth has access to the Internet, to all the information that exists, to instant communication, a gigabyte of speed to scads of knowledge on every subject imaginable. Forget the $100billion a year in revenue and the multi-trillion-dollar valuation of SpaceX making it the most valuable company in the world instead think about the advancement of mankind that perfect and near-instant communication from anyone, to anyone, could bring.

Finally, there’s one more unintended consequence from Starlink. With all, that money coming from SpaceX will have no problem funding a colony on Mars. I guess that one of the first things they do is deploy their Starlink system there to communicate is mars. that also solve the problem of mars communication.

Never forget that practically everything Elon does is aimed at colonizing Mars. That’s one big consequence.

Does satellite internet suck?

Actually Yes, currently satellite internet sucks for home use. That’s because things like HughesNet are only half based on satellite internet. They use your phone line to upload data because their satellites can only broadcast down to the Earth, they can’t receive.

The idea of StarLink is to have both directions be phased array antennas, sending signals, and receiving. That’s fast sometimes faster than the current wired infrastructure internet connections. Again, according to Elon’s tweet

Someone did a study on this and determined that Starlink satellite connection could actually outperform most of our current fiber-optic network infrastructure because of the circuitous route it often has to take to get to places and while Starlink will have laser light connection along shortest routes. A laser light traveling in space actually moves up to 50% faster than a laser light traveling through a fiber optic cable, because the glass slows it down.

Is it Starlink satellites Feasible?

Well, we’ve seen why building thousands of satellites can be cheaper than building one satellite, and SpaceX definitely has the lift capability to do it, so that they make it entirely possible for them to do it. The product they will have will be highly desirable and performance-oriented, thus salable. That’s pretty much the meaning of the word feasible after all.

What are those Unintended Consequences?

The biggest unintended consequence we’ve seen so far is just how big a success this system can actually be. we are not seen that much popularity of it.

SpaceX just filed a request with The Federal Communications Commission  (FCC) to license 1 million ground stations for 2020. If they can sell 1 million subscriptions at $100 each for a month, that’s $1.2 billion a year. That means basically doubling SpaceX’s revenue from 2018 when they launched 24 flights at $63 million each.

But $100 is sort of steep for the internet, even if it is GIGABYTE SPEED So, what if he offers it for $50 a month?

Suddenly, he will be cheaper than almost every broadband provider out there, and instead of a million customers, he’s got 10 million subscriptions, and he’s raking in $6 Billion a year. At that point, the launch part of SpaceX is an afterthought on the space x balance sheet.

And if he lowers it to $25 a month, he’s going to get pretty much everyone in the U.S. signed on Starlink. That’s 100 million households and $30billion a year in revenue for StarLink.

And the $10B buy-in costs to get the system up and running don’t seem so bad any more foe Elon Musks.

And let’s not stop there. This network doesn’t end at the borders of the united state after all. Let’s add in Europe, with its 140 million households, and you’re up into the $72 billion per year mark for Starlink.

And then there’s Asia, and Africa, and Australia and South America. There’s no reason not to start offering gigabit Internet there as well..

if it happens every person on Earth has access to the Internet, to all the information that exists, to instant communication, a gigabyte of speed to scads of knowledge on every subject imaginable. Forget the $100billion a year in revenue and the multi-trillion-dollar valuation of SpaceX making it the most valuable company in the world instead think about the advancement of mankind that perfect and near-instant communication from anyone, to anyone, could bring.

Finally, there’s one more unintended consequence from Starlink. With all, that money coming from SpaceX will have no problem funding a colony on Mars. My guess is that one of the first things they do is deploy their own Starlink system there to communicate is mars. that also solve the problem of mass communication.

Never forget that practically everything Elon does is aimed at colonizing Mars. That’s one big consequence.

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