Starlink is the name of a satellite network that private spaceflight company SpaceX is growing to provide low-cost internet to remote locations. SpaceX ultimately hopes to have as many as 42,000 satellites in this so-called megaconstellation. The scale and scale of the project baffled astronomers, who feared that the bright, orbiting objects would interfere with their observations. The universe, as well as spacecraft safety experts, who now consider Starlink the number one source of collision danger in Earth’s orbit.
Starlink: The original plan
SpaceX Satellite Internet Proposal was announced in January 2015. Although it was unnamed at the time, the CEO Elon Musk said that the company has submitted documents to international regulators to place about 4,000 satellites at low levels. The earth trajectory.
“We’re really talking about something that’s, in the long run, like rebuilding the Internet in space,” Musk said during a speech in Seattle when unveiling the project. (Musk also owns electric car company Tesla, but Tesla doesn’t make satellites.)
Musk’s initial estimate of the number of satellites quickly added up, as he hoped to capture a piece of the estimated $1 trillion global internet connectivity market to help achieve this. his vision of colonizing Mars. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has licensed SpaceX to fly 12,000 Starlink satellites, and the company has filed paperwork with international regulators to loft up to 30,000 additional spaceships.
To do that, as of January 5, 2022, 12,480 satellites have been launched in its entire history with only 4,900 active satellites, according to the European Space Agency.
SpaceX launched its first two Starlink test ships, named TinTinA and TinTinB, in February 2018. The mission went smoothly. Based on initial data, the company asked regulators to allow their fleets to operate at lower altitudes than originally planned. and the FCC agreed.
The The first 60 Starlink satellites launched on May 23, 2019, on SpaceX Falcon 9 . rocket. The satellites have successfully reached an operational altitude of 340 miles (550 km) – low enough to be pulled down to Earth by atmospheric drag for a few years so they don’t become space junk when they die.
How Starlink satellites work
The current version of each Starlink satellite weighs 573 lbs. (260 kg) and according to Sky & Telescope Magazine, roughly the size of a table.
Instead of sending internet signals over electrical cables, which must be physically arranged to reach distant places, satellite internet works by transmitting information over the vacuum of space, where it travels 47% faster than fiber optic cables. , Business Insider reported.
The current satellite internet works using large spacecraft orbiting 22,236 miles (35,786 km) above a specific point on Earth. But at that distance, there is often a significant time delay in sending and receiving data. By being closer to our planet and networked together, Starlink’s satellites are meant to carry vast amounts of information rapidly to any point on Earth, even over oceans and in other places. extremely hard to reach places where expensive fiber optic cables are laid down.
Musk has said that the Starlink network will be able to provide “small” internet coverage once 400 spacecraft are operational, and “moderate” coverage once about 800 satellites go live.
Users on the ground access broadband signals using kits sold by SpaceX. The set includes a small satellite dish with tripod, wifi router, cable and power supply, according to the company’s website.
Starlink vs Astronomy
Within days of the first Starlink 60 satellite launch, sky watchers spotted a linear string of pearls of light as the spacecraft zips overhead in the early morning. Web-based tutorials for others to see how to monitor spectacular screen.
“It was a pretty amazing sight, and I was like, ‘Owowowow!’ when the bright ‘train’ of objects comes into view”, Dutch-based satellite tracking company Marco Langbroek previously told Space.com by email. “They were brighter than I expected.”
That brightness was a surprise for most people, including SpaceX and the astronomy community. The researchers began to panic and share photos of satellites in their data, such as this are from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.
They express particular concern about future images from highly sensitive telescopes such as Vera Rubin . Observatory (formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope), which will study the entire universe in exquisite detail, and is expected to go online in 2022. Radio astronomers are also working on it. planned jamming from Starlink’s radio antennas.
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) expressed concern in statement released in June 2019. “Satellite constellations may pose a significant or debilitating threat to existing and future critical astronomical infrastructure. satellite,” the statement said.
In April 2021, Thomas Schildknecht, Deputy Director of the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Bern, who represents Switzerland in the IAU, said at the European Space Agency’s space debris conference that the coalition is calling on the United Nations to protect the pristine night sky as a cultural heritage against the uncontrolled expansion of supermassive rockets.
In a report Released in October 2022, the American Astronomical Society (ASS) likened the impact of megaconstellations on astronomy to light pollution. The sky could be brightened by a factor of 2-3 due to diffuse reflection of sunlight off the spacecraft, the report said.
Starlink as a major source of orbital collision risk
SpaceX received more backlash in September 2019, when European Space Agency (ESA) announced that they have directed their Aeolus satellite to perform evasive maneuvers and avoid crashing into “Starlink 44”, one of the first 60 satellites in the megaconstellation. The agency acted after learning from the US military that the probability of a collision was 1 in 1,000 – 10 times higher than the ESA’s threshold for conducting an avoidance drill.
In August 2021, Hugh Lewis, head of the Astronautical Research Group at the University of Southampton, UK and Europe’s leading expert on space debris, tell Space.com that the Starlink satellite is the only major source of collision risk in low Earth orbit.
According to computer models, at the time, the Starlink satellite was involved in about 1,600 encounters between the two spacecraft closer to 0.6 miles (1 km) per week. That is about 50% of all such incidents. This number grows with each new series of satellites launched into space, and by the time Starlink deploys all 12,000 satellites in its first-generation constellation it could reach 90%, Lewis said.
Lewis also expressed concern that Starlink’s SpaceX operator, a newcomer to the satellite business, is currently the most dominant player in an area where decisions could affect the safety of all aircraft. operating in low Earth orbit.
Effect on the atmosphere
What does SpaceX plan to do?
SpaceX has announced that it will work with organizations and space agencies to mitigate the effects of its supercell. And the company has tried to allay astronomers’ concerns about Starlink’s influence on the night sky.
Patricia Cooper, SpaceX’s vice president of satellite government affairs, told astronomers at the January 2020 meeting of Americans. Astronomical Society of Honolulu, Nature reported.
SpaceX has taken action to achieve this effect. Example: recently released Starlink satellite sports visor designed to prevent too much sunlight from their most reflective parts.
But the huge number of satellites in the super satellites of SpaceX and other private space companies, such as OneWeb, suggest that light pollution and other problems may continue, and advocates say. has called on government agencies for greater regulation.
“This is a gift to the world’s leaders, a mission more non-partisan than any that has come before: protect our skies,” star Arwen Rimmer wrote in Space Rating, a weekly online publication devoted to essays and commentary on space, in early 2020.
- Watch this video description Starlink satellite project, from SpaceX.
- Read how astrophysicist Ethan Siegel thinks SpaceX can fix the damage the Starlink satellite has caused to astronomy, published in Forbes magazine.
- Follow #starlink hashtag on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest Starlink news and opinions.
This article was updated on January 6, 2022 by Space.com senior writer Tereza Pultarova.
https://www.space.com/spacex-starlink-satellites.html Starlink: SpaceX’s satellite internet project