SpaceX Launches First Satellites to Extend Broadband Coverage

SpaceX Launches First Satellites to Extend Broadband Coverage

This morning, SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 with a payload that could be significant in the long term. The primary mission was to put Paz, a satellite operated by Hisdesat and intended for Earth observations, in orbit. The other two satellites are the first broadband satellites SpaceX has developed for Project Starlink.

Starlink, if you don’t recall, is SpaceX’s plan to build a network of relatively low-cost communication satellites. The initial plan called for 7,500 satellites; the new plan is to launch 12,000. Of these, 7,518 satellites will sit in very-low earth orbit (VLEO), while the rest sit in a standard non-geosynchronous low Earth orbit.

SpaceX Launches First Satellites to Extend Broadband Coverage

The degree of attenuation increases as frequency increases, but it doesn’t increase at a linear rate. The first jump is ~38GHz, when the molecular composition of water. Later, at 60GHz, we see attenuation sharply spike, to the point that 98 percent of all energy is absorbed. If Google is targeting higher frequencies, attenuation is less of a problem, though 10-20 percent of it will be lost depending on which frequencies the company elects to adopt.

The company isn’t promising any quick-deployment miracles at this point, and is focused on gaining the technical expertise it needs to make a network of 12,000 satellites able to communicate with the ground and each other.

I’m glad to see companies innovating on designs and capabilities, but I’m leery of satellite communication networks. If you’ve ever used a satellite for internet, you’ll know why. It’s not uncommon for satellite ping times to be 600-800ms, and some satellite ISPs enforce strict quotas on available monthly service. It’s never been a preferred solution at any time. It’s also harder to deal with equipment breakdowns once the satellite is in orbit. Building and launching replacements takes time, and the other satellites in orbit may or may not cover the same geographical areas all that well.

Elon Musk thinks he can bring the technology to market and park his satellites in a low enough orbit to reduce latency. He’s not the only company working on this problem. A VLEO orbit could bring the satellite network close enough to Earth to close most of the gap between terrestrial internet and space internet.

Continue reading

NASA Created a Collection of Spooky Space Sounds for Halloween
NASA Created a Collection of Spooky Space Sounds for Halloween

NASA's latest data release turns signals from beyond Earth into spooky sounds that are sure to send a chill up your spine.

SpaceX Launches ‘Better Than Nothing’ Starlink Beta
SpaceX Launches ‘Better Than Nothing’ Starlink Beta

Those lucky few who have gotten invitations to try the service will have to pay a hefty up-front cost, and the speeds aren't amazing. Still, it's a new generation of satellite internet.

Beyond Zoom: Virtual Gathering Spaces for the Holidays and Beyond
Beyond Zoom: Virtual Gathering Spaces for the Holidays and Beyond

Software is not yet available for a complete metaverse experience, but there are some promising new communication platforms that might provide an intermediate step between Zoom and a full-blown metaverse.

SpaceX Starlink Beta Could Expand As Soon As January 2021
SpaceX Starlink Beta Could Expand As Soon As January 2021

SpaceX has been launching Starlink internet satellites for the last 18 months or so, and all they managed to do for most of that time is tick off astronomers. However, the first users have been able to log onto SpaceX's Starlink internet service, and their impressions are good. This is just a small beta test, but SpaceX is apparently planning a wider test early next year.