According to an FCC filing (PDF) submitted as per the requirements that come with the $885 million subsidy SpaceX received as part of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the company’s Starlink has 10,000 users on its network. It has 1,000 satellites in orbit at present. Starlink is capable of launching 60 satellites at a time, with … Continue reading The (present) state of Starlink’s network
Ever wondered why Elon Musk is so high on Starlink, the low orbit internet access centric satellite constellation his company, Space X is building? It is because despite all the talk about Mars colonies, for now, communications is what will pay the bills and keep SpaceX growing. And it could be a lot more disruptive by lowering the cost of satellite communications and by being more inclusive. Imagine what if it cost $100,000 to build and launch a satellite — and you can imagine the rest. Read this astute analysis of the Starlink phenomenon by Casey Handmer. (Also: Who is Casey?)
Humans have put 8,378 objects put into space since the first Sputnik in 1957 and at the beginning of 2019 4,987 satellites were still up there, and 1957 are operational. From 1964to 2012 roughly 131 satellites were launched every year. In 2017 453 satellites were launched in space. In 2018, the number fell to 382. But 5200 are planned over the next four years and another 9,300 thereafter. That’s 15,000 satellites. First, wow…. how far have we come where the cost of launching a bird is so cheap now. Secondly, the unintended consequences of these many birds are going to be pretty substabtial. No one should be surprised if some complications develop overhead and cause problems down on the planet.
With OneWeb, Telesat and SpaceX’s combined infrastructure, the space network wouldn’t be close to it, though with its mega constellation, Starlink, SpaceX could theoretically have a capacity of 24 Tbps. That is very impressive — I have tracked satellite broadband for a long time, and nothing comes even close. However, it is not so impressive if you consider a single pair on a modern submarine cable carries more traffic than that.
The myth I’m exploring isn’t if SpaceX could carry MAREA’s traffic—it’s if they could carry half of used internet bandwidth in 2020. These new satellite constellations are going to be very important to reach underserved areas and provide them with lower latency. But the idea that they could take on half of long distance traffic isn’t yet feasible. Luckily for Elon, he has another great quote: “I say something then it usually happens. Maybe not on schedule, but it usually happens.”
Great analysis by Alan Mauldin, an old friend of ours from the day of the broadband blog.