SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, has launched thousands of satellites into orbit. Many people claim to have seen them in the sky. They are part of the Starlink project, which aims to deliver high-speed internet from space to remote areas on Earth.
Starlink provides internet access through a vast network of satellites. It is intended for people who live in remote areas and do not have access to high-speed internet. “There are people in that category in the UK, but there are more around the world, in places like Africa,” says Dr Lucinda King, Space Projects Manager at the University of Portsmouth. Starlink satellites have been placed in low-earth orbit around the Earth to maximise connection speeds between the satellites and the ground.
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How Starlink Function ?
However, a large number of low-level satellites are required to provide complete coverage of the globe. Starlink is thought to have launched 3,000 of them into space since 2018. According to Chris Hall, editorial director of the technology website Pocket Lint, it may eventually use 10,000 or 12,000 units.
“Using satellites solves the problem of connecting to the internet in remote locations such as deserts and mountains,” he says. It avoids the need for massive infrastructure, such as cables and masts, to reach those areas.
What is the cost of Starlink, and who will use it?
Starlink isn’t cheap when compared to other internet service providers. Customers pay $99 per month (£89 per month in the UK). The dish and router required to connect to the satellites will set you back $549 (£529 in the UK). However, 96 percent of UK households have access to high-speed internet, as do 90 percent of EU and US households.
“Most of the developed world is already well connected,” says Professor Sa’id Mosteshar of the Institute of Space Policy and Law at London University. “They rely on a small market share to generate revenue.” According to the company, it has 400,000 subscribers in the 36 countries it currently serves, the majority of which are in North America, Europe, and Australasia. This includes both individuals and businesses.
Is it creating space clutter?
Along with Starlink, competitors such as OneWeb and Viasat, which also provide satellite internet services, are launching thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit. According to Sa’id Mosteshar, this will cause problems.
“It reduces the safety of space in terms of collisions,” he says.
“When flying at high speeds, satellites could collide with other vessels and create wreckage, which could cause a lot more damage.”
A number of near misses involving Starlink satellites have recently occurred, including near misses with China’s space station.
“If there are too many fragments, low-Earth orbit may become unusable in the future,” says Dr. King of Portsmouth University.