Starlink; satellite network, description, Cost Price, access and installation guide.

Starlink satellite internet constellation; a low latency, broadband internet system to meet the needs of consumers across the globe developed by SpaceX. How the network operates with detail description of user terminal equipment, cost, installation and running cost, Services of starlink by SpaceX.

Starlink is a satellite internet constellation operated by SpaceX, providing satellite Internet access coverage to numerous countries and aims for global coverage. SpaceX started launching  Starlink satellites in 2019. As of May 2022, Starlink consists of over 2,400 mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) which communicates with designated ground transceivers.

Starlink

Starlink Satellite in orbit
Starlink Satellite in orbit
Manufacturer SpaceX
Country of origin United States
Operator SpaceX
Applications Internet service
Spacecraft type Small satellite
Launch mass v 0.9: 227 kg (500 lb)

v 1.0: 260 kg (570 lb)

v 1.5: ~295 kg (650 lb)

Equipment Ku-, Ka-, and E-band phased array antennas

Laser transponders (some units)

Hall-effect thrusters

Regime Low Earth orbit

Sun-synchronous orbit

Production Status Active
Starlink Logo
Starlink Logo

Starlink Services

SpaceX intends to provide satellite internet connectivity services to underserved areas of the planet, as well as provide competitively priced service in more urbanized areas. The company has stated that the positive cash flow from selling satellite internet services would be necessary to fund their Mars plans. Furthermore, SpaceX has long-term plans to develop and deploy a version of the satellite communication system to serve Mars.

History and Overview of Starlink satellite constellation and network.

Constellations of low Earth orbit satellites were first conceptualized in the mid-1980s as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative. These technologies led to numerous commercial megaconstellations using around 100 satellites that were planned in the 1990s such as Celestri, Teledesic, Iridium, and Globalstar. However all entities entered bankruptcy by the dot-com bubble burst, due in part to excessive launch costs at the time.

Starlink was publicly announced in January 2015 with the opening of the SpaceX satellite development facility in Redmond, WA. During the opening, Elon Musk stated there is still significant unmet demand worldwide for low-cost broadband capabilities. And that Starlink would target bandwidth to carry up to 50% of all backhaul communications traffic, and up to 10% of local Internet traffic, in high-density cities.

The SpaceX satellite development facility in Redmond, Washington houses the Starlink research, development, manufacturing, and orbit control teams. The cost of the decade-long project to design, build, and deploy the constellation was estimated by SpaceX in May 2018 to be at least US$10 billion. In February 2017, documents indicated that SpaceX expects more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025 from its satellite constellation, while revenues from its launch business were expected to reach $5 billion in the same year

On 15 October 2019, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) submitted filings to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) on SpaceX’s behalf to arrange spectrum for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites to supplement the 12,000 Starlink satellites already approved by the FCC.

Astronomers have raised concerns about the constellations’ effect on ground-based astronomy and how the satellites will add to an already congested orbital environment. SpaceX has attempted to mitigate astronomy concerns by implementing several upgrades to Starlink satellites aimed at reducing their brightness during operation. The satellites are equipped with krypton-fueled Hall thrusters which allow them to de-orbit at the end of their life. Additionally, the satellites are designed to autonomously avoid collisions based on uplinked tracking data.

As of 18 May 2022, SpaceX has over 2,300 functioning Starlink satellites in orbit. They continue to launch up to 53 more per Falcon 9 flight. In May 2022, SpaceX performed three separate launch missions in under a week. SpaceX is producing approximately 120 satellites a month.

The deployment of the first 1,440 satellites was planned in 72 orbital planes of 20 satellites each, with a requested lower minimum elevation angle of beams to improve reception: 25° rather than the 40° of the other two orbital shells. SpaceX launched the first 60 satellites of the constellation in May 2019 into a 550 km (340 mi) orbit and expected up to six launches in 2019 at that time, with 720 satellites (12 X 60) for continuous coverage in 2020.

Starlink satellites are also planned to launch on Starship, an under-development rocket of SpaceX that will launch 400 satellites at a time.

Starlink Satellite Production on the Starship
Proposed Starlink satellite Production on the Starship

Starlink Global availability and regulatory approval by country

In order to offer satellite services over any nation-state, International Telecommunication Union (ITU) regulations and long-standing international treaties require that landing rights be granted by each country jurisdiction. As a result, even though the Starlink network has near-global reach at latitudes below approximately 60°, broadband services can only be provided in 33 countries as of June 2022.

SpaceX can also have business operation and economic considerations that may make a difference in which countries Starlink service is offered, in which order, and how soon. For example, SpaceX formally requested authorization for Canada only in June 2020, the Canadian regulatory authority approved it in November 2020, and SpaceX rolled out service two months later, in January 2021. As of June 2022, Starlink services were on offer in 33 countries, with applications pending regulatory approval in many more.

On 26 February 2022, Elon Musk announced that the Starlink satellites had become active over Ukraine after a request from the Ukrainian government to replace internet services destroyed during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. By 6 April 2022, SpaceX had sent over 5000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine to allow Ukrainians access to the Starlink network. The Starlink equipment sent to Ukraine was partially funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the governments of France and Poland.

Starlinks delivered to Ukraine
Starlinks delivered to Ukraine

Japan’s major mobile provider, KDDI, announced a partnership with SpaceX to begin offering in 2022 expanded connectivity for its rural mobile customers via 1,200 remote mobile towers. In May 2022, it was announced that regulatory approval had been granted for Nigeria, Mozambique, and the Philippines.

Starlink in Africa

Sometime between July and September this year, Starlink expects to go live in two African countries: Nigeria, and Mozambique and on May 27 The SpaceX-owned service announced that it has received regulatory approvals from both countries. Nigeria gave Starlink two licenses that took effect on May 1 and will expire in 2027 and 2032. The service is registered as an entity in the Victoria Island area of Lagos state.

Starlink Satellite hardware

The Internet communication satellites were expected to be in the smallsat-class of 100 to 500 kg (220 to 1,100 lb)-mass, and were intended to be in low Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of approximately 1,100 km (680 mi), according to early public releases of information in 2015. In the event, the first large deployment of 60 satellites in May 2019 were 227 kg (500 lb) and SpaceX decided to place the satellites at a relatively low 550 km (340 mi), due to concerns about the space environment. Initial plans as of January 2015 were for the constellation to be made up of approximately 4,000 cross-linked satellites, more than twice as many operational satellites as were in orbit in January 2015.

 

starlink satellites in Falcon 9 fairing
starlink satellites in Falcon 9 fairing before launch

The satellites will employ optical inter-satellite links and phased array beam-forming and digital processing technologies in the Ku- and Ka-bands, according to documents filed with the U.S. FCC. While specifics of the phased array technologies have been disclosed as part of the frequency application, SpaceX enforced confidentiality regarding details of the optical inter-satellite links. Early satellites were launched without laser links. The inter-satellite laser links were successfully tested in late 2020.

The satellites will be mass-produced, at a much lower cost per unit of capability than previously existing satellites. Elon Musk said, “We’re going to try and do for satellites what we’ve done for rockets.” “In order to revolutionize space, we have to address both satellites and rockets.” “Smaller satellites are crucial to lowering the cost of space-based Internet and communications”.

In February 2015, SpaceX asked the FCC to consider future innovative uses of the Ka-band spectrum before the FCC commits to 5G communications regulations that would create barriers to entry, since SpaceX is a new entrant to the satellite communications market. The SpaceX non-geostationary orbit communications satellite constellation will operate in the high-frequency bands above 24 GHz, “where steerable Earth stations transmit antennas would have a wider geographic impact, and significantly lower satellite altitudes magnify the impact of aggregate interference from terrestrial transmissions”.

Internet traffic via a geostationary satellite has a minimum theoretical round-trip latency of at least 477 milliseconds (ms; between user and ground gateway), but in practice, current satellites have latencies of 600 ms or more. Starlink satellites are orbiting at 1⁄105 to 1⁄30 of the height of geostationary orbits, and thus offer more practical Earth-to-sat latencies of around 25 to 35 ms, comparable to existing cable and fiber networks. The system will use a peer-to-peer protocol claimed to be “simpler than IPv6”, it will also incorporate end-to-end encryption natively.

Starlink satellites use Hall-effect thrusters with krypton gas as the reaction mass for orbit raising and station keeping. Krypton Hall thrusters tend to exhibit significantly higher erosion of the flow channel compared to a similar electric propulsion system operated with xenon, but krypton is much more abundant and has a lower market price.

Starlink User terminals

The system does not directly connect from its satellites to handsets (like the constellations from Iridium, Globalstar, Thuraya and Inmarsat). Instead, it is linked to flat user terminals the size of a pizza box, which will have phased array antennas and track the satellites. The terminals can be mounted anywhere, as long as they can see the sky. This includes fast-moving objects like trains.

Starlink kit packed
Starlink kit in the box as delivered

Starlink Terminal antenna has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky”. The antenna is known internally as “Dishy McFlatface”.

In October 2020, SpaceX launched a paid-for beta service in the U.S. called “Better Than Nothing Beta”, charging $599 for a user terminal, with an expected service of “50 Mbps to 150 Mbps and latency from 20 ms to 40 ms over the next several months”. From January 2021, the paid-for beta service was extended to other continents, starting with the United Kingdom.

SpaceX has announced Starlink Business, a higher performance edition of the service. It provides a larger high-performance antenna and listed speeds of between 150 and 500Mbit/s, with a cost of $2500 for the antenna and a $500 monthly service fee.

In September 2020, SpaceX applied for permission to put terminals on 10 of its ships with the expectation of entering the maritime market in the future.

Cost Price and How to Get and install Starlink

A Starlink device can be set up and ready for use in less than 30 minutes, the cost is relatively expensive, The Starlink price is broken down into a one-time equipment fee of approximately $599, $60 for shipping/handling, and a monthly subscription of $110. The premium service costs nearly $2,500 for the complete kit and $500 monthly.

The complete Starlink kit contains one Starlink dish, a dish mount, and a Wi-Fi router base unit. It also includes a power cable for the base unit and a 75-foot cable for connecting the router to the dish and can be set up without professional help with guide from the instruction sheet with illustrations. Additional accessories are available through Starlink, including longer cables, additional mounting hardware, and adapters for connecting other equipment over standard Ethernet.

Starlink dish, a dish mount, and a Wi-Fi router base unit
Starlink dish, a dish mount, and a Wi-Fi router base unit

Once you have everything set up, the next step is to mount and position the assembled dish for optimal satellite reception. You find a good position by using the Starlink app; it has an interactive tool that helps you find and validate the proper position for a new dish, but the guidelines are easy enough to understand.

An unobstructed view of the sky with at least 100 degrees of obstacle-free space above and around the dish is required. A large unobstructed swath of sky is necessary because the dish does not maintain a fixed orientation. Although mounted in one place, the dish has a motor and will readjust to maintain a connection with passing satellites. Some ideas for mounting locations include an open field, a rooftop, or some other elevated structure (such as a pole) that is above obstructions such as fences, buildings, and trees.

With the Starlink app, Phone’s camera can be used to scan the viewing area of the dish. The process involves pointing the camera up at the sky, which may require some creative positioning on your part to let you view the screen and move the camera. Ideally, you want the camera in approximately the same position as the dish, which is roughly knee height. The easiest way to do this is to lay on the ground and look up at my phone as the area get scanned.

The app walks you through this process, during which you point the camera up at the sky, then sweep around the outer edges of that viewable area. The app places green dots onto the screen to indicate unscanned areas within the dish’s field of view and a handy arrow shows you what area to scan next.

The satellite-based Starlink internet service unlocks excellent speeds pretty much anywhere.

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