The name of the network is Starlink and it is designed to provide low-cost internet to remote locations. As many as 42,000 satellites are expected to be in this megaconstellation.
Astronomers and spaceflight safety experts fear that the bright objects in Starlink will interfere with their observations of the universe, as well as that the project is too large. Some scientists worry that the amount of metal that will be burning up in the atmosphere as old satellites are deorbited could cause unpredictable changes to the planet's climate.
The proposal for a satellite internet was announced in January 2015. Musk said that the company had filed documents with international regulators to place about 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit.
During a speech in Seattle, Musk said that they were talking about rebuilding the internet in space. Musk also owns electric car company, but does not produce satellites.
The number of satellites soon grew as Musk hoped to capture a part of the $1 trillion worldwide internet market to help achieve his Mars colonization vision. The FCC granted permission for the company to fly 12,000 Starlink satellites, and the company has filed paperwork with an international regulator to loft up to 30,000 additional satellites.
The European Space Agency says that there have been over 12,000 satellites launched in all of history.
The first two Starlink test craft were named TinTinA and TinTinB. The mission went well. The FCC agreed to allow the company's fleet to operate at lower altitudes than originally planned, based on initial data.
The first 60 Starlink satellites were launched on May 23, 2019. The satellites were able to reach their operational altitude because they were low enough to be pulled down to Earth in a few years.
There is a dedicated website for ordering Starlink terminals. Go to the main page of the Starlink website and scroll down to the section that says "order now."
You can see if Starlink is available for your region by plugging in your service address. There may be shipping delays due to supply chain issues.
A search for an address in Brooklyn in April 2022, gave a hardware price of $599.00, a one-time shipping and handling charge of $50.00, and a monthly service charge of $110.00.
Users in rural areas can expect to see download speeds between 100 and 200 megabyte per second, while users in urban areas can expect a slower download speed of less than 20 megabyte per second.
You should see a Starlink kit in your box once it arrives. A website user guide and a Starlink app are meant to help you through the installation.
The company says that anyone with a clear region of the sky should be able to find a satellite, even if they are close to the north and south poles.
The Starlink main page states that it is suited for areas where internet service has been unreliable or completely unavailable.
The customer service page has more information about Starlink setup and answers to frequently asked questions.
The current version of the Starlink satellite is over 500 lbs. Sky and Telescope magazine says it is roughly the size of a table.
Satellite internet works better than fiber-optic cable because it travels through the vacuum of space at a faster rate.
Satellite internet works using large satellites that are above a specific spot on Earth. There are delays in sending and receiving data at that distance. By being closer to our planet and networking together, Starlink's satellites are meant to carry large amounts of information rapidly to any point on Earth, even over the oceans and in extremely hard-to-reach places.
After about 800 satellites became operational, the Starlink network would be able to provide moderate internet coverage.
More than 1,900 Starlink satellites were launched by SpaceX. According to a Starlink guide, the constellation is now providing broadband service in select areas around the world, with download speeds of between 100 and 200 MB/s and a low latency of 20 milliseconds.
Users on the ground are able to access the broadband signals. The kit contains a small satellite dish, a tripod, a power supply, and a wireless internet connection.
Skywatchers spotted a linear pearl string of lights as the first 60-satellite Starlink launched. Web-based guides showed how to find the display.
Marco Langbroek, a Netherlands-based satellite tracker, told Space.com that he was shouting "Owowowow!" when the bright train of objects entered into view.
It was a surprise to everyone, including the astronomy community. Researchers began to panic and shared photos of satellite streaks in their data.
The Vera Rubin Observatory, which will study the entire universe in exquisite detail, is expected to come online in 2022. Radio astronomy is planning for interference from the Starlink radio-based antennas.
The Starlink satellites were launched by SpaceX.
Satellite constellations can pose a serious threat to existing and future infrastructures, and we urge their designers and deployers as well as policy-makers to work with the astronomical community.
At the European Space Agency's space debris conference in April 2021, Thomas Schildknecht, the deputy director of the University of Bern, who represents Switzerland in the IAU, said that the union was calling on the United Nations to protect the night sky.
The impact of megaconstellations on astronomy was compared to light pollution in a report released in October. The report said that the sky may be brighter by a factor of two to three.
The European Space Agency ordered the Aeolus satellite to take evasive maneuvers in order to avoid crashing into Starlink 44, one of the first 60 satellites in the megaconstellation. The agency took action after learning that the probability of a collision was 10 times higher than the threshold for conducting a collision-avoidance maneuver.
Hugh Lewis, the head of the Astronautics Research Group at the University ofSouthampton, U.K., told Space.com that Starlink satellites are the main sources of collision risk.
Starlink satellites were involved in about 1,600 encounters with other satellites every week, according to computer models. About half of all such incidents have that number. Every new satellite launched into space increases this number. By the time Starlink deploys all 12,000 satellites, it could be 90 percent.
The operator of Starlink, which is a newcomer to the satellite business, is now the single most dominant player in the field, which can affect the safety of all operations in low Earth orbit.
Every five years, the Starlink megaconstellation will be refreshed with newer technology. The old satellites will burn up at the end of their service. That is commendable when it comes to space debris prevention.
Satellites burning in the upper layers of the atmosphere could change the chemistry of the atmosphere and have unforeseen consequences for life on the planet.
In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports in May of 2021, Boley said that the aluminum the satellites are made of will produce aluminum oxide. He warned that the ability of the atmosphere to reflect heat could be altered by the use of alumina.
Boley told Space.com that if you dump enough alumina into the atmosphere, it will cause scattering and change the albedo of the planet.
That could lead to a change in the Earth's climate balance. The effects of these changes are not known.
The atmospheric chemistry expert at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration told Space.com that she was concerned about the effects of the particles from the burning satellites in the atmosphere. There is expertise in modelling the effects ofgeoengineering interventions.
More research is needed to understand the effects of burning increasing amounts of satellites in the atmosphere, according to two scientists.
The scientists said that the particles are likely to stay in the high layers of the atmosphere.
Boley said that the amount of satellites burning in the atmosphere will be considerably smaller than the amount of meteorites, thus the chemical composition of the artificial objects is different, thus the presence of the products of their burning is something scientists know nothing about.
Boley said that they have 60 tons of material coming in every day. Most meteorites are made of oxygen, magnesium, and Silicon. The meteorites contain only a small amount of aluminum, which is the majority of these satellites.
The intensity of the effects would increase as the particles accumulate. It can't be ruled out that the pollution from burning megaconstellation satellites could lead to changes on a scale similar to what we are currently experiencing.
Boley said that humans are good at underestimating their ability to change the environment. We can't dump enough carbon into the atmosphere to make a difference. We are here. We have a plastic pollution problem with the ocean, we have climate change ongoing as a result of our actions and our changing of the composition of the atmosphere, and we are poised to make the same type of mistake by our use of space.
Space.com requested comment from Starlink.
The impact of the megaconstellation will be mitigated by organizations and space agencies. The company has tried to address the concerns of the astronomy community.
The vice president of satellite government affairs at SpaceX told the astronomer at the January 2020 meeting that the company is committed to finding a way forward so the Starlink project doesn't impede the value of the research.
This effect has been taken care of by the company. Starlink satellites have visors that prevent sunlight from glinting off their most reflective parts.
The huge number of satellites in megaconstellations from private space companies, such as OneWeb, suggest that light-pollution and other issues may continue, and advocates have called for greater regulations from government agencies.
Here is a gift for the leaders of the world, a task more non-partisan than any other which has come before: protect our skies, wrote Arwen Rimmer in The Space Review, a weekly online publication devoted to essays and commentary about space.
On February 3, 2022, theFalcon 9 rocket made a successful launch of 49 Starlink satellites from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The density of the atmosphere was pushed up by a storm a day later, causing the satellites to die off.
Up to 40 of the satellites will reenter or already have reentered the Earth's atmosphere because of the increased drag at the low altitudes.
Each satellite was put into a low initial orbit that had a minimum altitude of 130 miles above Earth. In case something goes wrong during a launch, the company releases batches of Starlink into such an area to allow for quick disposal. Satellites are vulnerable to solar activity that affects the atmosphere.
The atmospheric drag increased up to 50 percent higher than during previous launches because of the storm's speed and severity.
The company tried to save them by placing all the satellites in a safe mode and telling them to fly edge on. The company spoke directly with the U.S. Space Force and the company LeoLabs to track the machines with ground-based radar.
Most of the Starlink batches was lost. The upshot is that the satellites pose zero collision risk with other satellites and that the satellites won't generate any debris that hits the ground.
This unique situation shows the lengths the Starlink team has gone to ensure the system is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris reduction.
The Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine asked for help two days after Russia invaded his country.
Supply chain disruptions and other issues caused by the conflict resulted in a shipment coming in just two days after Federov's plea for Starlink terminals.
For six weeks, the company was working on a delivery in Ukraine. The official paperwork wasn't able to get through in time, so it took Federov's tweet as permission to enter the country.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) collaborated with the company on this initiative. The country is under attack as of this writing, and the public-private partnership sent 5,000 Starlink terminal to the country.
In March of 2022, Musk noted that the Starlink terminals had been jammed near conflict areas in Ukraine. When Musk announced this, the company was already working on an upgrade, and he promised a further pivot to cyber defense to keep the Starlinks operational.
In February of 2022, Musk and SpaceX sent at least 50 Starlink terminals to the island nation of Tonga in the Pacific Ocean. The goal was to give its residents free internet access.
The terminals were needed after the volcano eruption and the tsunami in January. The terminals will allow for communications to flow in some of the regions with the worst effects of the eruption.
The report of the SATCON2 workshop was published in July of 2021.
Satellite mega-constellations create risks in the atmosphere and on Earth.
The Astrophysical Journal Letters published an article on the Low Earth Orbit Satellite Population and Impacts.
Massey R. et al. The challenge of satellite megaconstellations, Nature Astronomy, 6 November, 2020
The article was updated on April 12, 2022.