Starlink internet satellites glaring the sky

Have you ever envisaged an internet penetration at 100% in interior villages and minor residents where broadband connection is little to none? The possibility of such is clearly a doubt to many. nevertheless, it’s actually not a daylight dream, but rather an actualization forwarded by SpaceX’s CEO, Elon Musk in a project codenamed Starlink.

Starlink aims to make use of circulating satellites around the Earth’s atmosphere to provide broadband internet to all parts of the globe, hopefully, at a much reduced fee.

To achieve the purpose, the project aims to put up about 4200 of these satellites; with 420 of it presently now in orbit.

Starlink satellites as seen from a night sky

Starlink satellites as seen from a night sky

While our contemporary broadband service providers make use of communication structures to rebound signals to our devices, starlink’s satellite internet wouldn’t need such, thereby eliminating certain costs.

What is starlink comprehensively all about?

The “Starlink — internet from space” project is fully funded and executed by a private space services company, SpaceX. The founder of the California based firm is Elon musk, who doubles as a major shareholder in the leading electric car manufacturing company — Tesla. Musk hopes to evade infrastructural costs associated with the present telecom broadband services.

Geared up with the goal of “delivering high-speed broadband internet to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable,” SpaceX has approval from the Federal Communications Commission to launch 12,000 satellites, of which about 420 are already operational in orbit. Approval from the International Telecommunication Union is sought for the further launch of about 30,000 more.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk

So basically, Musk hopes to create a constellation of dynamic interacting satellites which would relay broadband signal, significantly all over the world.

More about Musk’s satellites

The crux of Musk’s internet from the space plan rest in the satellites he’s gradually sending to space. The full implementation of the project lies in the functioning of these satellites, which interestingly has unique details.

Each of Musk’s satellites weighs about 260kg, with batches of 60’s regularly being sent to orbit from NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA. Starlink satellites aren’t like any other satellites orbiting the earth. They orbit the earth at an altitude of 550km, which is nearer than most satellites in orbit.

60 stacked Starlink satellites ready for launch

60 stacked Starlink satellites ready for launch

These fleet of orbiting satellites have now become a glamorous sight in a night sky. Much nearer to the Earth’s surface, the streak of a twilight glow reflected upon the solar panels of these satellites creates a glaring display when looked up from the Earth’s surface.

You could really trail these satellites

Flares of constantly moving objects in the night sky were traced by gazers across different parts of the world. Mostly due to astonishment, pictures and video recordings of it were uploaded on social media.

Notwithstanding, you could obviously get a view of Musk’s satellites, or better still, the glittering spaceship in it’s launch mission anywhere in the world. Although various websites and apps promises to give you a guide on how to track these crafts, Findstarlink offers live locations of Starlink satellites. The most probable period to quest for these sights is a little after sunset, or periods before sunrise in the wee hours of morning.

In a mission statement after a launch in January, SpaceX’s representatives made known that upon reaching the operational altitude of 340 miles (550 km), the spacecraft carrying the satellites would become faintly visible from the earth surface. These satellites after detachment from the craft would take on new orientations further dimming its view.

The satellites initially just after launch, are seen almost packed together. However with time, they become more and more spread out from each other gaining significant altitude, consequently. The brightly lit cluster of satellites is of huge disadvantage to astronomers, though.

The satellites posses astronomical challenges

Astronomers are worried that these glaring satellites could ruin night planetary observations. These veteran observers have come out critical of the increasing numbers of the satellites orbiting the earth’s atmosphere, given the distortion to images captured upon their passage.

Streams of Starlink satellites trajectory

Streams of Starlink satellites trajectory

They argue that humanity’s privation of an untroubled view of the sky is briskly becoming a new normalcy. And given the untowardness flaunted by supervisory agencies, space debris could turn a new issue of international concern.

Illustration of space debris

Illustration of space debris

The astronomers avers that unlike any other satellites rounding the earth’s orbit, Starlink’s and other similar sats are way too near the surface, posing a threat to space photographing. With the current trajectory and increased launch of satellites, the future they fear, would present a murky and polluted space. About 8,000 objects have been launched to orbit; 4,000 of it are currently still orbiting the earth surface, while about 2,000 of it are operational.

How would Starlink internet work?

Ordinarily, we are used to broadband internet relayed by nearby telecom masts. However, how about an efficient rebound of signals from a satellite?

In a 2016 documentation with the FCC, an  internet speed of up to one gigabit per second, and latencies between 25 and 35 milliseconds was presented to it by starlink. When fully operational, these figures are expected to be lesser, considering that a partnered test with the US air Force in 2018 using prototype satellites recorded speeds of 610 Mbps. Only a 4G or 5G technology could match that speed.

Illustration of constellation of Starlink satellites

Illustration of constellation of Starlink satellites

Latency is the amount of delay, measured in milliseconds, that occurs in a round-trip data transmission. That is, the time it takes for broadband signal from your internet device to be incident on a nearby satellite, rebound toward a server, and then back to your device following same route. How possible the claimed latency value is said to be achieved is also a doubt.

Latency from a geostationary satellite is approximately 500-800 milliseconds. Musk’s satellites which are much nearer to the Earth’s surface, would surely have lesser latency, thereby an effective data transfer speed would be gotten.

Broadband internet from starlink wouldn’t directly transmit data from a satellite in orbit towards your personal device. It will be relayed through a terminal to your device which Musk said looked like a “small- to medium-sized pizza.” These “pizza boxes” would probably be clipped to the roof of a building and connected to devices. The costs of starlink services is yet to be known, however if statements by spaceX are to be relied upon, the broadband service would be affordable.

An advantage in Nigeria’s telecommunication market

With broadband penetration at 33.13 percent, Nigeria’s telecom sector isn’t fully within the par set by renowned countries. A recent filing by the national bureau of statistics indicate that out of the 36 states comprising the country, ten states account for 50% of internet subscribers. Reasons are not far-fetched. In remote villages and certain towns, subscribers hardly enjoy fluency of broadband connection due to absence of telecom masts. Tales aren’t much different in the cities, where users have to endure sluggish network speeds.

Telecommunication mast in Nigeria

Telecommunication mast in Nigeria

Nevertheless, Nigeria’s telecom industry contributes to about 10% of the country’s GDP. As such, broadband access to remote locations in the country as proposed by Starlink would tremendously spur the growth of the sector, and indirectly the nation’s internal revenue.

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A potential electrical/electronics engineer in the making, a phone addict and a motivating partner.While he's not researching through with his phone, Daniel spends his time with the books.Twitter: @MrDoubleDaniel Fav. quote: The habit of persistence is the habit of victory!

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