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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 23 2020, @05:33PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the how-it-works-is-up-in-the-air dept.

How Does Starlink Work Anyway?:

No matter what you think of Elon Musk, it's hard to deny that he takes the dictum "There's no such thing as bad publicity" to heart. From hurling sports cars into orbit to solar-powered roof destroyers, there's little that Mr. Musk can't turn into a net positive for at least one of his many ventures, not to mention his image.

Elon may have gotten in over his head, though. His plan to use his SpaceX rockets to fill the sky with thousands of satellites dedicated to providing cheap Internet access ran afoul of the astronomy community, which has decried the impact of the Starlink satellites on observations, both in the optical wavelengths and further down the spectrum in the radio bands. And that's with only a tiny fraction of the planned constellation deployed; once fully built-out, they fear Starlink will ruin Earth-based observation forever.

What exactly the final Starlink constellation will look like and what impact it would have on observations depend greatly on the degree to which it can withstand regulatory efforts and market forces. Assuming it does survive and gets built out into a system that more or less resembles the current plan, what exactly will Starlink do? And more importantly, how will it accomplish its stated goals?


Original Submission

Related Stories

SpaceX Approved to Deploy 1 Million U.S. Starlink Terminals; OneWeb Reportedly Considers Bankruptcy 33 comments

SpaceX gets FCC license for 1 million satellite-broadband user terminals

SpaceX has received government approval to deploy up to 1 million user terminals in the United States for its Starlink satellite-broadband constellation.

SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for the license in February 2019, and the FCC announced its approval in a public notice last week. The FCC approval is for "a blanket license for the operation of up to 1,000,000 fixed earth stations that will communicate with [SpaceX's] non-geostationary orbit satellite system." The license is good for 15 years.

[...] One million terminals would only cover a fraction of US homes, but SpaceX isn't necessarily looking to sign up huge portions of the US population. Musk said at the conference that Starlink will likely serve the "3 or 4 percent hardest-to-reach customers for telcos" and "people who simply have no connectivity right now, or the connectivity is really bad." Starlink won't have lots of customers in big cities like LA "because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough," he said.

SpaceX's main Starlink constellation competitor is running out of money

OneWeb, the only pressing competitor facing SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation, has reportedly begun to consider filing for bankruptcy shortly before the London-based company completed its third dedicated launch.

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  • (Score: 2) by Revek on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:14PM (9 children)

    by Revek (5022) on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:14PM (#961479)

    Just think you can live anywhere and still have connectivity. Wireless carriers who won't upgrade will suddenly find themselves with real competition. It will affect the astronomy geeks but overall this is a step in the right direction.

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    This page was generated by a Swarm of Roaming Elephants
    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:28PM (2 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:28PM (#961513)

      It will affect the astronomy geeks

      Not for long - how many astronomy geeks do you know that don't already use high numbers of exposures and heavy image processing software?

      How hard do you think it is to identify a fast moving prick of light and erase it?

      --
      My karma ran over your dogma.
      • (Score: 4, Funny) by cykros on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:39PM (1 child)

        by cykros (989) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:39PM (#961520)

        fast moving prick

        Not the first time Elon's been called one of these...

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:04PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:04PM (#961527)

          I thought he was more a prick of attitude than a prick of light...

          --
          My karma ran over your dogma.
    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:50PM (5 children)

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:50PM (#961524) Journal

      Wireless carriers who won't upgrade will suddenly find themselves with real competition.

      It requires a large ("pizza box" sized) terminal to work. It won't be immediately usable with just a smartphone, although maybe a scheme to challenge mobile providers by using lots of the terminals could work. And it could provide good VOIP to people in areas with crap mobile service.

      --
      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 2) by Revek on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:59PM (3 children)

        by Revek (5022) on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:59PM (#961550)

        I live in a area where outside of towns the only option anyone has for internet is using a wireless carrier. So the size of the NID isn't going to matter. People in rural areas would not care if it was the size of a fridge.

        --
        This page was generated by a Swarm of Roaming Elephants
        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @09:19PM (2 children)

          by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday February 23 2020, @09:19PM (#961558) Journal

          Thanks for the clarification. Yup, rural folks have it real bad. Do you think the wireless carriers will even try to build up and compete with broadband constellations? It seems like a lost cause if you can get 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps from satellites.

          --
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
          • (Score: 2) by Revek on Sunday February 23 2020, @09:34PM

            by Revek (5022) on Sunday February 23 2020, @09:34PM (#961567)

            Its mostly at and fee so no. They are all about the numbers and they have no idea how to build a market.

            --
            This page was generated by a Swarm of Roaming Elephants
          • (Score: 2) by edIII on Monday February 24 2020, @07:06AM

            by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 24 2020, @07:06AM (#961742)

            It is a lost cause. Whether you're talking about wireless carriers as the cellular companies, or wireless ISPs pushing data services.

            Although, I highly doubt they're going to get the bandwidth out the satellites. Assuming that sat-to-sat comms are multi-gigabit, that's only going to carry one of your 1 Gbps service packages. The downlink to Earth is going to have to be low-latency and huge, not just 1 Gbps. More likely they're going to have a LOT of downlinks in different major cities coming from the sats, trying to route as efficiently as possible across the least number of sats.

            Assuming they've got all of that..... how much bandwidth can one sat, in one coverage map, offer rural customers? I'll be very shocked if it's over the base of 8 Mbps.

            As far as the ground is concerned, you have to run fiber. Even with wireless ISPs, you're pushing the end of that fiber out across dozens of miles. Ultimately though, it's gotta come back to fiber. Otherwise the cost of creating multi-gigabit links across 30+ miles is going to make that rural connection hundreds per month. Power backups, outdoor rated equipment, redundant links, all result in an expensive network. You can get 20 Mbps, but the farther you are from fiber, and the more hops you need to get back to it, the more expensive it is. Out at the fringes of the network the costs of increasing capacity can be very considerable. You have to increase capacity all the way back to fiber.

            Why would you invest in that at all, when a sat company is going to offer 3 Mbps for 90$?

            --
            Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @02:22AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @02:22AM (#961671)

        a terrestrial Starlink terminal with low power millimeter wave 5g nanocell equipment would work. at least until you try to incorporate access control, billing metrics, hand off, and so on...

  • (Score: 1, Flamebait) by legont on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:21PM (4 children)

    by legont (4179) on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:21PM (#961484)

    Let's not forget OneWeb that plans to do the same and faster than Mask. While they are based in Florida, they use French launch facilities and Russian rockets. Therefore they could potentially ignore the US regulations.
    https://www.oneweb.world/ [www.oneweb.world]
    The tech is 5G. There got to be Huawei here somewhere.

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:36PM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:36PM (#961489)

    My wife freaked out when she saw a string of them going across the twilight sky in San Diego. She thought Russia launched nukes this way.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by FatPhil on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:39PM (4 children)

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:39PM (#961598) Homepage
      How long did it take to transit? What's its apparent magnitude?

      Tonight, in a part of the world where even seeing Sirius is a rarity (yes, a European capital city), there was this bright spot just hanging there, even brighter than the planes that had just taken off, all alone and placid. I pointed it out to my g/f, she had no explanation either. We went to the pub for a couple of beers, but when we returned it had passed.

      If it was starlink, I'm not sure how I feel about this. I shan't make up my mind until I know what the real facts are about what I saw, no point tilting at space windmills.
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:56PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:56PM (#961609)

        At just after twilight their magnitude was almost as bright as Venus, fading slowly as they crossed overhead.
        How to find Starlink satellites with Stellarium... https://imgur.com/a/6eeNJRE [imgur.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @02:23AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @02:23AM (#961673)

        That was almost definitely not a Starlink. Here [nasa.gov] is a link where you can sign up to SpotTheStation - it's for the ISS. The ISS is flying quite a lot higher than the Starlinks and so its perceived velocity would be lower. It's also about the size of a football field rather than a whatever the StarLink sats are - probably a square meter or two, if that?

        The point of this is that it should be way brighter, and way slower than a Starlink - and it's *definitely* not what you'd call a "bright spot just hanging there." Maybe a Chinese lantern? As they reach higher altitudes they start to seem to stand still until they gradually fade from distance (or burn out) and could look somewhat similar to what you're describing, especially if it had an orangish glow.

      • (Score: 2) by Common Joe on Monday February 24 2020, @10:24AM (1 child)

        by Common Joe (33) <common.joe.0101NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 24 2020, @10:24AM (#961770) Journal

        I'm not the grandparent AC, but I saw them between Christmas and New Years. I don't know the exact magnitude, but in my part of the world, they were as bright as planets. They sailed across the sky as large dots of light -- in a row, one after another. Each one stayed visible for about 90 to 120 seconds, appearing at an approximate similar point and disappearing at another approximate point. They traversed about half the sky. I saw about 3 to 5 at them at any one time. I watched for about 10 minutes before I had to leave.

        It was only the next morning when I looked up specific satellites that I figured out exactly what I had seen. I knew I had seen satellites (the spacing between each dot of light was very regular and the speed was exactly the same between each), but I didn't know which ones.

        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday February 24 2020, @12:20PM

          by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday February 24 2020, @12:20PM (#961791) Homepage
          I think when they were ducklings in a line they hadn't reached anywhere near their final orbit yet, but their orbital radius, even if they're doubling altitude, won't change massively. However, that minute ballpark is a useful datapoint. The spot I saw really didn't seem to be moving, so it looks like it wasn't one of them. Musta been a UFO! I'll keep my eyes peeled, it looks like it will be a clear sky tonight.
          --
          I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:58PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @06:58PM (#961497)

    "A Russian company called StartRocket says it’s going to launch a cluster of cubesats into space that will act as an “orbital billboard,” projecting enormous advertisements into the night sky like artificial constellations. And its first client, it says, will be Pepsi."
    Can't wait for someone to hack them into a goatse ad covering 1/3 of the night sky.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:07PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:07PM (#961584)

      That's no planet...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:09PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:09PM (#961587)

        ... moon whatever

    • (Score: 2) by edIII on Monday February 24 2020, @02:15AM

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 24 2020, @02:15AM (#961667)

      Fair game for hacking and destruction then.

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:07PM

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:07PM (#961506)

    Satellites - predictable tracks, just about the easiest possible thing to automatically edit out of a long exposure, once you've done the math.

    If they were obscuring 10% of the incoming radiation, sure... but these are tiny tiny pinpricks moving in super-predictable paths - the kind of thing your image processing software could intelligently remove even without a database of tracks.

    --
    My karma ran over your dogma.
  • (Score: 2) by bzipitidoo on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:15PM (6 children)

    by bzipitidoo (4388) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:15PM (#961508) Journal

    Obvious solution: build 1000s of space telescopes. Put them in lunar orbit. And at the Earth-Moon Lagrange points. And very high orbits of Earth. Now, if only someone will pay for all that, I suspect the astronomers would view it as a fair trade in exchange for losing the ability to make ground based observations at the frequencies these commsats use.

    Who should pay? The polluters, no? Not the public. We already see the treasury routinely looted to pay for cleaning up other's messes. Not just Superfund. TARP. Privatize the gains, socialize the losses. So, Mr. Musk, how about it? Willing to foot the bill to fund the creation of this huge asset for astronomic studies?

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:46PM (2 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @07:46PM (#961523)

      A few years back, I was thinking about getting into astronomy - like: work on Mauna Loa. I briefly toyed with the idea of getting a hobby telescope and doing some of my own backyard work - you can do some really impressive stuff these days with less than $10K in equipment, but... in the end, no matter how much you spend, you're working from a relatively tiny aperture, in a horrible light pollution soup, and it's really nothing like working with the "real stuff," which, by the way, is available for free amateur downloading and processing to your heart's content.

      Offtopic tangent: Ultimately, Hilo turned us off by reminding me too much of what happened to West Coast Florida in the 1970s-90s, same general crap seems to be going down in Hilo today - massive influx of new people, overdevelopment of natural resources. In Florida, my parents have been resident since birth in the 1940s - I just couldn't imagine being "part of the problem" in Hilo with my family.

      Somewhat more ontopic tangent: If you're really serious about astronomy, you probably use the serious data collected from the serious instruments - the only thing a backyard scope has that the big (free) ones don't is the ability to choose your targets, but if you don't mind data that's a year or two old (nothing, in cosmic timescales), then you can get orders of magnitude better images out of the pro-community scopes of just about any target you can imagine.

      --
      My karma ran over your dogma.
      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:14PM (1 child)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:14PM (#961533) Journal

        You just need to find something the amateur scope is still useful for.

        https://occultations.org/ [occultations.org]

        Maybe you could automate a telescope to look at predicted occultations as well as checking random stars:

        Distant Kuiper Belt Planetesimal Found Using Occultation [soylentnews.org]

        This fills an interesting niche. Amateur quality equipment and poor viewing conditions aren't a total impediment, as much data as possible is helpful, you can discover new objects, etc.

        --
        [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:26PM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday February 23 2020, @10:26PM (#961594)

          It's not that backyard astronomy is useless, more data is always good and there are valuable things that a wide blanket of fuzzy eyes can do that a small number of sharp ones can't, but... they are quite different, and most of the WOW (translate: funding) does tend to come from the sharp eyes' data.

          --
          My karma ran over your dogma.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:06PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:06PM (#961529) Journal

      Musk is footing the bill for Starship, which will be far more beneficial to astronomy than Starlink will be detrimental. NASA will be able to get more than 10x done with their budget, should they choose to do so. Your dream of thousands of space telescopes will be realized. Most of them can work just fine in LEO, even underneath the broadband constellations, and focus on small targets. Wide field-of-view telescopes can use orbits like the one TESS uses.

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    • (Score: 2) by edIII on Monday February 24 2020, @02:11AM (1 child)

      by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday February 24 2020, @02:11AM (#961664)

      ^THIS^

      If you're going to fuck up the sky for every single person that would fall in love with astronomy, then the least you owe us is obviating the need for ground based observatories. Use that massive amount of bandwidth to deliver high quality astronomy images to everyone in the world that wants to look at it. Starlink Astronomical CDN built-in to each satellite to more easily distribute popular astronomical data. For for scientific community, those very high earth orbit satellite installations you spoke off.

      If a kid could point his tablet up to the sky, and then received a processed image of the sky with zoom capabilities, then yes, perhaps proper compensation has been made for taking the stars from us.

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @09:55PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 24 2020, @09:55PM (#962022)

        Buncha socialist nonsense!

  • (Score: 0, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:05PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 23 2020, @08:05PM (#961528)

    Camera in the front, monitor in the back! Problem solved. You're welcome.

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