After revolutionising the car and rocket-launching industries, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is set to take on the space communication sector by launching thousands of satellites that would beam internet to isolated populations.
SpaceX has plans to dot the Earth with over 40,000 Starlinks, which would be nearly 13 times the number of active satellites in orbit at present.
Musk's Space Exploration Technologies launched the first Starlink satellite in May 2019, reported Bloomberg. As of September 2020, 700 of them have been deployed, increasing the number of active satellites in orbit by almost one third.
Musk’s space broadband network is not the first, but his satellites definitely offer a speed advantage. The existent ones rely on geostationary satellites that orbit more than 22,200 miles from Earth, which slows down their speed. In contrast, Musk’s are situated at an altitude of 340 miles from Earth, making them remarkably faster.
During the launch of the 12th Starlink on September 3, SpaceX engineer Kate Tice had announced that the network was already getting a download speed of over 100 megabits per second.
If their expansion plan follows through, it will threaten the entire industry by sheer virtue of scale. In July, Morgan Stanley had estimated that Starlink would constitute $40 billion of SpaceX’s total value of $50 billion.
However, such Low-Earth orbits, or LEOs, come with riders – they need to move around the globe at a speed of five miles per second to maintain a constant altitude. So, to ensure unhinged internet service, a ground receiver needs to switch between satellite signals while ensuring the two-way connection is not dropped.