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All You Need To Know About Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink Satellite Internet

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SpaceX plans to provide high-speed Internet access anywhere globally by sending thousands of Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbits.

Nearly 3 billion people, or about 40% of the world’s population, have access to the internet. Of the current 4.5 billion subscribers, many do not have access to high-speed, cheap, high-quality internet. That’s why the news of the arrival of Starlink satellite internet has given many users hope.

In this article, we will learn more about satellite internet and especially the Starlink SpaceX project.

Satellite Internet

SpaceX Starlink
Representative Image. (Source: flickr)

Satellite internet is not a new phenomenon and some companies offer satellite internet services right now. The largest satellite internet providers currently available are ViaSat and HughesNet. It is interesting to know that both of these companies introduced their satellite internet service for the first time in 2012, and HughesNet has 1.3 million subscribers in the United States.

But why is the story different this time around, and the whole world is eagerly following the news of the Starlink project and eagerly awaiting the launch of the SpaceX satellite internet?

The answer to the above question lies in the difference between the Starlink satellite system and other internet satellite systems:

  •  Starlink is supposed to be global and theoretically, its serviceability will not be specific to a specific geographical area.
  • Starlink will have much more bandwidth due to the larger number of satellites, and as a result, will serve many more users.
  • Most importantly, Starlink is much faster and has much less latency than other satellite Internet.

Low Latency And Universal Service

One of the most important disadvantages of satellite internet has been its very high latency and limited service to a particular country or continent.

The reason for this long delay and geographical constraint is that satellite internet service providers have previously placed their satellites in fixed orbit or GEO. The rotation speed of the satellites in this orbit is equal to the rotation speed of the earth around it. As a result, the satellite remains practically fixed at a fixed point in the sky from the point of view of the terrestrial observer.

Also, the 35,000 km altitude of the orbit of these satellites makes the internet latency they provide reach 550 milliseconds at best and up to 600 milliseconds in practice. Such delays make traditional satellite internet services very unsuitable or even practically unusable for applications such as audio-visual communication and video games.

But Starlink satellites are supposed to be in low-Earth orbit or LEO with an altitude of 500 km in the first phase and 300 km in the next phases (i.e. 70 to 100 times closer than the GEO orbiting satellites). This makes Starlink satellite internet latency theoretically even less than fibre optics.

How is it possible for a signal that goes into space and back to earth to reach its destination faster than a signal that travels a shorter path within a fibre optic? The answer lies in the difference between the speed of light and electromagnetic waves in glass (fibre optics) and vacuum: the speed of light in fibre optics is only two-thirds the speed of electromagnetic waves in a vacuum.

According to the results of recently published speed tests, it has been determined that the Starlink Internet latency is currently between 30 and 90 milliseconds, and some users have even reported latency of 20 and 21 milliseconds.

Elon Musk had previously said that with the implementation of the next phase, the Starlink latency could be reduced to 8 milliseconds. This means that for the first time, satellite internet can be used for applications such as voice and video calls and video games.

High Speed And Capacity

SpaceX Starlink
Representative Image. (Source: flickr)

Another disadvantage of satellite internet before was the small number of satellites in orbit, which forced many users to share the bandwidth of a satellite with each other, thus, reducing the speed of satellite internet subscribers. The small number of satellites also limits the number of potential users.

For example, even if ViaSat and HughesNet had global coverage, they could not serve tens or hundreds of millions to prevent a sharp drop in speed.

SpaceX, however, plans to send many more satellites into space to deliver the internet. If all goes according to plan, SpaceX will increase the number of active satellites in orbit to more than a thousand with at least 10 more launches this year. By the end of the first phase, the number of SpaceX satellites will be more than 4,000, and finally, the total number of satellites will reach an incredible 40,000.

Starlink: History And Technologies

For the first time in 2018, SpaceX sent two telecommunications satellites, Tintin A and Tintin B, into low-Earth orbit to test satellite internet. After conducting various tests, SpaceX launched its own satellite production line in Redmond, Washington, to launch the first shipment of 60 Starlink satellites in mid-2019 called v0.9 (read WePoint) or the ninth version.

Slowly, this group of 60 was also an experiment and is now obsolete and will enter the earth’s atmosphere over time.

SpaceX launched the first 60 payloads of Starlink 1 operational satellites into space shortly after the end of 2019, and from that date until the writing of this article, it has orbited 14 Falcon 9 rockets before 800 Starlink 1 satellites in orbit. The earth is put.

Each Starlink satellite weighs 227 kg and provides a maximum bandwidth of 20 Gbps. SpaceX has taken a number of innovations to build Starlinks, each of which may require a separate article to fully explain. Therefore, we will briefly mention the most important specifications and features of Starlink satellites.

All the features and specifications of Starlink satellites are primarily designed to lower the final price of the satellite, not to be revolutionary and first. There are already satellites in orbit with similar or more advanced technologies than Starlink, but none of them is comparable in price to Starlink.

For example, Iridium satellites (which previously held the record for the cheapest commercial satellites) cost $5 million per satellite, while the cost of Starlink satellites is estimated to be 20 times cheaper and only $250,000 per satellite.

For the first time in history, the space company is mass-producing satellites on the factory production line. This greatly reduces the final cost of the satellite, which was previously built individually and in a laboratory. SpaceX currently produces 120 satellites per month (4 satellites per day).

Starlink satellites are also the first satellites to use krypton ion motors to propel themselves into orbit. Xenon gas has been used to fuel ion engines in satellites in the past, but although it performs better than krypton in ion engines, its price is much higher.

Unlike other satellites, Starlink satellites have a solar panel on one side only. But the same panel is so large that their total area per 60 launches is larger than the total area of ​​the International Space Station’s solar panels. Using only one integrated panel on one side of the satellite is another solution that helps to simplify the manufacturing process, make it easier to open the satellite in orbit, and ultimately lower the cost.

Connecting To Satrlink

Representative Image.

To connect to satellite internet, including Starlink, the user must use special antennas. Contrary to popular belief, there is no 4G or 5G satellite internet that can be easily connected to a phone without any special equipment, nor will it be available in the near future.

Starlink uses special antennas called Phased Array Antennas to send and receive data both on the satellite and on the user side. An interesting feature of these antennas is that they can send their signals in the frequency band Ku and Ka in different directions without the need for physical rotation, just by using the ability to intercept waves.

Elon Musk had previously said that Starlink antennas are the size of a pizza, but as leaked videos showed some time ago, the size of American pizza seems to be much larger than the rest of the world.

As we have said, due to the nature of fuzzy array antennas, there is no need to set them in a specific direction. However, once installed, the antenna automatically adjusts its position only to the part of the sky where Starlink has the largest number of satellites or the part that has the least physical barrier between the antenna and the sky.

Setting up the system required to use Starlink satellite internet is supposed to be as simple as possible for the user to have a so-called plug and play experience. According to Elon Musk, the steps to set up the Starlink internet are as follows:

  •  Power on the antenna.
  •  Point the antenna at the sky.
Featured Image via flickr
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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