SpaceX Starlink Rebuilding the Internet in Space

At the Mobile World Congress 2021, Elon Musk discusses the overall strategy around the SpaceX Starlink internet service and the goal to reach 500,000 users in the next 12 months.

Starlink is filling in the gaps between 5G and fiber. Starlink will help the hardest to reach 3-5% of the world’s users.

The combined power of the 1500 Starlink satellites has over 5 megawatts of solar power. In August, Starlink will have globally connectivity for everywhere on Earth except the north and south poles.

SpaceX is continuing to innovate the interfaces, ground terminals and other components.

Starlink will be at 500 kilometer of altitude instead of 36,000 kilometers for geosynch. Starlink will have less than 20 milliseconds of latency.

Starlink has digital phased array systems. This enables microsecond switching of users between different satellites.

SpaceX will launch 80% of payload mass to space this year.

SpaceX is getting close to launching Starlink version 1.5 which have laser inter satellite links.

This will then be followed by Starlink version 2.0.

SpaceX will be connecting directly to server centers like Youtube and Google. This will reduce any delays and jitter.

It will take $5-10 billion to achieve positive cashflow. There will be continued investments afterwards to compete with ground based cellular.

SOURCES- Elon Musk, SpaceX, Starlink, Mobile World Congress 2021

57 thoughts on “SpaceX Starlink Rebuilding the Internet in Space”

  1. Please note,you would not launch very much to do O'Neill. Give Jeff advice after you understand his plans.

  2. Starlink's great advantage is that it is competing in all the markets where Cable can't compete (rural, boats, planes) but gets to charge Cable prices. To me it is reasonable for it to serve 20% of North American households.

    10 million customers seems to be a low bar estimate. I'd go with 50 million customers in North America.

    • They don’t! Look at some of the pictures astronomers are getting with satellite streaks all over their pics – badly degraded.

  3. Normally, I'd think Elon is the antichrist, but he is just not pretty enough, even with the hair augmentation!

  4. I imagine servers in space would have cooling problems. Maybe it could be managed with enough radiators?

    As for DNS, decentralized alternatives like Ethereum Name Service can be used as well.

  5. I think that is the estimated investment needed to get enough sales to make it a going business.

  6. For each billion dollars per year of sales at 100$/mo, they need 833,334 customers. For a billion profit let's say 1million customers once the hardware(sats, and customer stations) is truly in mass production, and starship is building up a record of reliability putting starlink into orbit which is worth a lot to spacex.
    I'd think 10 million customers would be easily done at current prices, so at least $10 billion per year. Profit would increase if monthly rate is lowered since users would increase.
    Sounds like a great business model to me. You just need the vision, deep pockets, and a reusable launcher fleet to make it happen! No wonder only Elon is doing it, the other constellations are mere posers.

  7. Check this out for background of power beaming debate. Space Solar too, a little later, after current excess Earth energy is balanced. I've always said energy companies would *invest* in LSP, to make money. Now, just to pay the fines. Perhaps. edit: Farber said it will also be difficult for the oil industry to resist the
    weight of US lawsuits, shareholder activism and shifting public and
    political opinion. “It might push them towards settlement or supporting
    legislation that releases some from liability in return for some major
    concessions such as a large tax to finance responses to climate change.”

  8. In spring, the hole broke up, and areas with greatly reduced ozone drifted north. This lead to occasional ultra-violet warnings in New Zealand ( we already have the world's worst rates of melanoma.)

  9. Indeed. I recently saw someone claim, if I remember correctly!, that he merely did not know of the focus equation. Seems highly unlikely.

  10. I think Tesla had a couple of approaches. The one that was fleshed out the most (that I saw) was simply using the ionosphere as a conductor. So there would be one or more generator stations that would have really tall towers that physically poked into the ionosphere (which is conductive) and charged it up relative to the ground. Then the users would have a similar tower, and they had the charged ionosphere discharge to the ground.

    Obviously this meant that you needed a tower thousands of metres tall to use the "free power".

    So, next approach was to use some sort of highly intense beam of light to create an ionised channel of air all the way to the ionosphere and use that to conduct electricity down to your power antennae. Which was never demonstrated even slightly in practice. But assuming it could work, the approach also let you power aircraft, so you had one light beam generating an ionised channel going up to the ionosphere, and another facing down to the ground with your electric aircraft engines completing the circuit. What happens when you fly over a city with what would effectively be a moving bolt of lightning burning a path on the ground below you is left as an issue for the lawyers. Though the ability to send beams of lightning to any spot on earth might allow you to extort enough money to pay for giving free power to everyone.

  11. Well, I'm stretching it there, altho *perhaps* Tesla merely underestimated the need for large antennae/radar that practical power beaming has. Now, I think he was actually trying to load energy into the ionosphere or something fancy. The PB tech is the same as simple radar, or even the multi-tower phased linear array of radio stations. Just bigger elements to capture the whole focus. Curiously, there is a move to recharge one's phone etc with the wifi signal. TANSTAAFL? But Musk is sending focused beam with phased arrays, collected with cells. Getting "phaser" signal back, actually more, as the upload. This has the customer/load switching that the current grid does not have, but could with similar PB. And PB gives the now needed greatly long distance transmission, the word correctly used, btw. It really is just a radio, at heart, but, well, powerful.

  12. If you call Starlink data transmissions Power Beaming, then we can sit back and say that the original Tesla idea of wirelessly distributing power throughout the world has been in place since the 1920s AM radio boom and we all have free power (nW, but measurable power) available whenever we put up an antenna connected to an RLC circuit.

  13. gotta clear the site cache/cookie AND hold shift+F5 to do a full reload. something got borked again…

  14. But doesn't that assume those who would explore the solar system are also slaves versus the slave masters?

  15. The polar ozone 'hole' (Which to this day we don't know wasn't a natural thing, it was there the first time we looked.) was caused by catalytic breakdown of ozone on the surface of microscopic (dry?) ice particles in the upper atmosphere, only assisted by CFCs, which only formed during the coldest part of the winter.

    But it also required the total absence of sunlight you get in the winter at the poles, so that there wouldn't be any replacement of the destroyed ozone. The hole vanished each spring for that reason. That's a factor which is inapplicable anywhere but the poles.

    I suppose if the aluminum nanoparticles were particularly effective catalysts for ozone destruction, it might be possible. They certainly couldn't do it by merely chemically depleting Ozone.

  16. Slaves are poor high tech workers, and I imagine worse astronauts.

    They tend to get uppity and want to have rights, be free and happy, not just less whipping, a loaf of bread and a bunk.

  17. That may be a possibility, but isn't the main ozone depletion effect the article states:

    "As aluminum burns, it can chemically react with ozone in the air to form aluminum oxide, thereby depleting the naturally protective supply of ozone in the atmosphere"

    The article does talk about rocket exhaust containing alumina and HCL, but that appears to be a case of guilt by association, derived from other articles that discuss both the albedo impact of alumina and the ozone depletion due to HCL/chlorine radicals released by rocket exhaust.

    Can you find a citation that directly states that alumina particles deplete atmospheric ozone? The closest I've found is an article stating something along the lines of "the effects and atmospheric chemical reactions due to alumina are unknown".

  18. Well, it's not a mutually exclusive proposition. He can rule this small planet, while also ruling over the solar system.

  19. Indeed. The goal of human space settlement is much more important than a puerile competition with E. Musk.

    If Musk 'got it' in rockets, fine. Use that capability to launch and build the first O'Neill habitat!

    It's called division of work, Jeff. Try it. It works.

  20. also why does the comment section doesn't work on firefox?
    Fix it NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. I have often expressed the hope that Musk rockets would be soooooo good that Bezos does exactly as you say, buys them and stops his own spending on rockets. He would still be the one that "has it", the right plan. Musk will fail unless he starts thinking O'Neill. He has no plans to do anything in space except refuel with Earth launched fuel. Unless someone pays him to do *their* plan, as NASA is doing. Of course, the O'Neill plan, being responsive to reality, is now to skip the Moon entirely, as NEA/NEOs have water etc too. BTW, Vulcan will be testing Bezos B-4 engines in orbital commercial launches, even crewed, long before Musk has his Raptors tested likewise. New Glenn is too big, much like FH, for most current needs. It is ready to launch, however, too. New Armstrong? You know as much as I. "Let's see"!

    edit: A Blue Origin spin off was formed to have the business of recoverable second stages. Sooooo. Also, I'm pretty sure Bezos can also buy CH4, or does Musk have the monopoly on that? He may need it, as most use H in their second stages unlike Musk, so they have better Space tugs. I did say long ago that Musk was taking a chance on Mars by using CH4 in second stage because of Mars. "Let's see"!

  22. Let's see if Bezos can get to LEO before claiming he "has it."

    So far, Musk is doing far more to advance O'Neill's cause than Bezos ever has. Even if Musk doesn't build orbitals himself, he'll happily sell cheap launch to anyone else who wants to do it. It will be a long time before Bezos can launch things anywhere near as cheaply as Starship, since the New Glenn only reuses the first stage.

    In fact, if Bezos really wants to go full O'Neill he should pivot away from rockets entirely and spend that $1B/year on developing orbital colonies for launch on Starship. Start with Kalpana Two, 8500 tons in LEO holding 500 to 1000 people. At Starship prices Bezos could launch the thing for less than his annual budget.

    Then if he also gives up his silly little lander he could use Lunar Starship to drop 100 tons at a time to the moon and set up a mining/mass driver operation for something bigger.

  23. Starlink isn't feasible for higher population densities, you'd have to massively increase the size of the satellites' antennas, and the ground antennas, to reduce the footprint of each enough, and then orbit a simply absurd number of satellites, in order to handle the density of connections.

    And then, having done so, you'd have hugely over-built for everywhere else.

  24. It's more likely that most of the satellite would burn above the stratosphere, and then drift very slowly down as nanometer scale AlOx particles, which could spend months in the stratosphere. The destruction of ozone is not a direct reaction, but from catalysis on the surface – such small particles have a very high surface-to-volume ratio. (Freon gases also work as catalysts, which is why such a low mass of contaminants could have an outsized effect.) How that would compare with HCl and sulfur from volcanoes, I've no idea.

  25. Metropolitan areas will stick with big servers and fibre optics but smaller towns are just right for Starlink. It's pricey but imagine a village with a handful of hotels, public places etc. having a receiver dish und sourcing cheap Wi-Fi to individual costumers. Sooner or later shorter range services like Wi-Fi will probably be replaced by optical transmission but that won't affect the long range transmission choice fibre optics vs. Starlink.

  26. There's no question that if Elon wants to have a market in China, he'll have to pass everything through Chinese ground stations that apply their firewall and monitoring of their citizens.

    And he'll have to be careful to never insult the CCP by telling too much truth, or they'll turn off even that – though I'm sure he's aware of that from his Tesla dealings.

  27. Yes – every Starlink satellite should have cameras at least as good as a smartphone on board that anyone can look through to see near-live footage anywhere on Earth. Maybe higher-def line scanning for detailed still image capture.

    Ground resolution won't be very high, but imagine being able to look down on a forest fire at night, or see a tsunami sweeping across a city, or the aftermath of a hurricane or tornado. Sure, disaster-porn-voyeurism – but maybe also greater empathy for victims of a disaster?

  28. You mean, because power beaming gives 24/7 sunlight and worldwide distribution and balancing of power production and demand, and micr0g and extraterrestrial materials used in mfg if Space Solar, that the other advantages are excessive?.

  29. The article seems to be saying that the aluminum satellite would burn up the ozone layer, thereby destroying it.

    Ozone makes up maybe 1/700th of the oxygen in the stratosphere, so if 2000kg of Starlink satellites burn up each day and actually burnup in the stratosphere (instead of above it) they'll react 3 O atoms per 2 Al, or about 1800kg of oxygen, of which about 2.6kg would presumably be from ozone, or 940kg/yr.

    The stratosphere has about 5e17 kg of mass, roughly 1/3rd oxygen (by mass) for 1.7e17kg of oxygen, so ~2.4e14kg of Ozone.

    So in roughly 260M years, Starlink satellites will have burned up about 0.1% of the ozone, assuming the extreme heating didn't help generate more ozone than it burned.

    Caveat emptor mathematica – my quick-math may be off…

  30. What's the point of ruling a small planet that hates you?

    It's rhetoric. I know there plenty of tyrants that would love to do just that.

    But for a person unlike them, it's pointless when he can direct the fate of a big Solar System as the firs trillionaire and be acclaimed as the new Columbus.

  31. Yup, cheap access to space allows FOBS, space drop RRF, and realtime global surveillance. Use wisely.

  32. It's utter hogwash and I have a hard time believing Popular Mechanics would run such drivel.

    Ozone is a triatomic molecule of oxygen. It is created in Earth's stratosphere when ultraviolet light breaks apart molecular oxygen (O2) into 2 free oxygen atoms (O), which then in a chain reaction immediately bind with other molecular oxygen to form ozone (O3).

    You, quite literally, can't "crack open" the ozone layer. It's a fully permeable gas 9 to 22 miles above Earth, and a satellite doesn't operate at that elevation. As well, the miniscule amounts of aluminum oxide a deorbited satellite could create is trivial compared to terrestrial sources of the same.

    And as for the ozone cycle, so long as molecular oxygen exists in our atmosphere and our neighborhood star emits ultraviolet light, Earth's atmosphere will have stratospheric ozone.

    It's chemistry.

  33. Coincidentally, they do create that sort of capability if you put cameras and sensors on the satellites and use Starship as an orbital kinetic bomber. Yep, the rapid reaction force is probably doable too. Starship Troopers.

  34. If it became a serious issue rather than clickbait SpaceX could make it’s Starlink sats out of different materials. Aluminum isn’t essential to,their function.

  35. There isn’t much advantage for resiliency and redundancy of a solar panel 100’s of km away beaming it’s power as microwaves vs a solar panel & battery at the user location.

  36. Brian, is the $5-10 billion monthly or yearly gross income? If it is yearly, then a little over 4 million users is all it would take to get there. (4.17 million x $100/month x 12 months = $5 billion)…

  37. It is very sad that Popular Mechanics has become such a Woke clickbait farm…

    Next up on Popular Mechanics:

    Overpopulation will kill us all!

    Also, we were right before we were wrong – A new Ice Age will kill us in 15 years if we don't pass legislation to stop it NOW!

  38. Imagine if Elon Musk turned out to be some evil genius and his Starlink and Starship combined was really some kind of weapon system that could strike any part of the planet… He takes over the world, vaporizing any serious opposition from orbit, while using Starship based rapid reaction forces to run around the world quelling any opposition that remains.

  39. These advantages of resiliency and redundancy in particular are avail also for the power grid, with power beaming, in fact, *also* with power beaming, as Musk signal is too power beaming.

  40. That would be a game changer in many parts of the world and sadly probably our future world here aswell. But if it was me and it was my intent I would wait to get market saturation at least in a meaningful way before doing. Simply when if that happens Starlink will be a major enemy of some serious totalitarian govs and probably the US gov via our Lobbying system, and of course the big US corps that have their monopoly in jeopardy. When early growing make yourself useful to the big competition be a asset not a threat until you have the size to defend yourself or at least survive the attack.

    Personally I cannot wait to get a strong enough internet to quit comcast the most anti consumer corp I know of except maybe AT&T. I was a early Clearwire guy but they sold out to TMobile which then sold out to AT&T sadly.

  41. Now they need to add in space hosting and DNS services. Minimize the extent to which data goes through ground based trunks capable of being tapped or exploited to block content.

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