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Starlink

Starlink is a SpaceX initiative to create a global broadband network by using a constellation of low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites. SpaceX , more formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is a privately held rocket and spacecraft company founded in 2002 by Elon Musk.

According to press releases, the goal of Starlink is to create a low-latency network in space that will facilitate edge computing on earth. As of this writing, the fastest digital connection from London to New York is generally around 76 milliseconds (ms). Starlink, once fully complete, is expected to offer a latency of around 46ms.

The challenge of creating a global network in outer space is not a small one, especially because low latency will be an important demand. The solution proposed by SpaceX is a grand one equal to the task: a constellation of almost 42,000 tablet-size satellites circling the globe in low orbit. The small cubesats will create tight network coverage, and their low earth orbit will facilitate low latency.

How will Starlink work?

In 2020, the company plans to launch 60 satellites every other week and the network will boot up after several hundred are in space. To allow satellite-to-satellite communication, each unit will have five lasers, four to be engaged at a time. The lasers will operate in a vacuum and provide faster connection speeds than fiber optics. (Lasers are faster because the refractive index of glass slows the speed of light passing through fiber optics by 47%.)

According to SpaceX estimates, Starlink will bring in around $30-50 billion a year. Starlink’s profitability will probably be due partly to the demand for low latency electronic trading connections across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. As before, with undersea fiber optics, heavy investment in LEO satellite constellations is expected from financial trading sectors.

Watch an introductory video about Starlink:

This was last updated in January 2020

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