Construction of the first orbital zone of the world’s first space internet network ‘Starlink’ has been completed.
SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, launched 60 low-orbit Internet satellites, Starlink, from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Florida, at 3 pm on the 26th (4 am on the 27th, Korean time).
SpaceX has put more than 1584 satellites into low-Earth orbit, the first phase of commercial service. SpaceX has announced that once the first orbital zone is completed, Internet service will be available to most of the world’s most densely populated areas (between 55 degrees North and 55 degrees South latitude)
Since SpaceX launched its first 60 satellites in May 2019, the total number of satellites launched 29 times in the two years until today is 1737. Of these, 1578 satellites are currently operating normally in orbit. When the satellites launched on this day are placed in orbit, the number of satellites will increase to 1638, which will meet the requirements for official service start as announced by Space. This year alone, 790 satellites (including 10 polar orbit satellites) have been launched, accelerating the construction of the Internet network.
4,000 satellites by 2024, 12,000 satellites by 2027
Starlink is a business that provides high-speed Internet service across the globe by launching 12,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 1200 km or less. The low orbit Internet satellite is much closer than the existing satellite Internet that uses geostationary orbit communication satellites at an altitude of 36,000 km, and the data transmission speed is fast because inter-satellite communication is also possible. Therefore, high-speed Internet service is possible even where optical cables are not laid.
SpaceX plans to deploy Starlink satellites to be launched later in this orbit. The remaining 2,814 satellites in the first phase were originally going to use an orbit at an altitude of 1100 to 1300 km, but these satellites also requested the Federal Communications Commission to change the altitude to an altitude of 540 to 570 km to increase data transmission efficiency and were approved in April.
Starlink’s first phase internet network, which completed the first zone with the launch on the same day, consists of five zones. All satellites launched so far orbit 550 km, and after that, 540 km orbits (1584), 570 km orbits (720), and 560 km polar orbits (348, 172) will be added. The second-stage low-orbit Internet network to be built with 7,500 satellites is woven into three zones at an altitude of 335-345 km.
In this way, SpaceX plans to launch 6,000 satellites by 2024 and 12,000 satellites by 2027 to provide high-speed satellite Internet across the world. After that, plans to add 30,000 satellites were announced, but a specific schedule has not been released yet.
Starlink started beta service in the northern United States last fall and is gradually expanding its target regions to Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Recently, beta services were also launched in Austria and France. Since last February, prior to the official service, pre-registration applications have been accepted online. Space says more than 500,000 people have applied to join so far. SpaceX is scheduled to start its official service in the second half of this year.
Musk tweeted in February that, “By the end of this year, the data transfer rate will reach 300Mb/sec and the latency will be reduced to 20ms,” Musk said. .
Currently, Starlink’s beta service fee is $99 per month (110,000 won), and you have to pay $499 (560,000 won) for Internet access equipment separately. The access equipment consists of a satellite dish, a tripod, and a Wi-Fi router.
SpaceX costs 10 billion dollars (about 11 trillion won) to build Starlink, but it is expected to earn 30 billion dollars (34 trillion won) a year when the business starts in earnest. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that as soon as the Starlink business is back on track, it will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and the profits earned from the space internet will be used to develop spacecraft for Mars travel
Amazon and China are also joining… In all, 60,000 satellites
SpaceX isn’t the only place that has a low-orbit internet satellite business. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who is in competition with Elon Musk in the space business, is also promoting the low-orbit Internet network ‘Kyper’ consisting of 3236 satellites. Amazon recently signed a contract with ULA, a rocket launcher, to launch nine Kuiper satellites. It plans to launch half of the total by 2026.
OneWeb, which is owned by the British government and India’s Barti Group, has launched 182 low-orbit Internet satellites since February 2019. OneWeb plans to complete the first phase of the space internet network construction project with 650 satellites orbiting in low orbit at an altitude of 1200 km.
China also submitted a plan to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in September last year to launch 12,992 low-orbit Internet satellites at an altitude of 500 to 1145 km.
Combining all the plans that have been released so far, more than 60,000 satellites will be launched into low orbit within 10 years.
Concerns about obstructing astronomical observation and risk of collision
The astronomy community is expressing concerns about the successive Internet satellite projects. The reason is that the light reflected by numerous satellites will interfere with celestial observations.
In response, SpaceX reduced the light reflectance by devising ‘DarkSat’ with a black coating on the surface of the satellite and ‘VisorSat’ with a awning. All satellites launched since August of last year are covered with awnings. But the astronomical community says that even if the brightness is reduced by half, it is still much brighter than the objects of interest.
As the number of low-orbit satellites has rapidly increased, managing the risk of collisions between satellites has also emerged as a challenge. In fact, in early April, while the OneWeb satellite was increasing its altitude, it approached the Starlink satellite at a distance of 60 meters and a collision hazard warning was issued.