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posted by martyb on Friday August 27 2021, @08:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the space-lasers-with-optional-sharks dept.

SpaceX paused Starlink launches to give its internet satellites lasers

SpaceX hasn't launched any Starlink internet satellites since June. It turns out it's because the company has been adding "lasers" to the spacecraft.

[...] "We're flying a number of laser terminals right now in space," Shotwell said, adding that SpaceX is now working to integrate lasers into all of its Starlink satellites.

"That's why we have been struggling for six or eight weeks — we wanted the next set to have laser terminals on them," Shotwell said.

[...] With this technology, SpaceX hopes that ground stations on Earth won't be necessary with every batch of satellites as part of the constellation. Making this change could allow satellite internet coverage to reach areas where ground stations cannot be built, Shotwell explained.

The recent launch lull won't last much longer


Original Submission

Related Stories

Starlink’s Inter-Satellite Laser Links Are Setting New Record With 42 Million GB Per Day 13 comments

https://www.pcmag.com/news/starlinks-laser-system-is-beaming-42-million-gb-of-data-per-day

SpaceX's laser system for Starlink is delivering over 42 petabytes of data for customers per day, an engineer revealed today. That translates into 42 million gigabytes.

"We're passing over terabits per second [of data] every day across 9,000 lasers," SpaceX engineer Travis Brashears said today at SPIE Photonics West, an event in San Francisco focused on the latest advancements in optics and light.

[...] Although Starlink uses radio waves to beam high-speed internet to customers, SpaceX has also been outfitting the company's satellites with a "laser link" system to help drive down latency and improve the system's global coverage.

[...] Brashears also said Starlink's laser system was able to connect two satellites over 5,400 kilometers (3,355 miles) apart. The link was so long "it cut down through the atmosphere, all the way down to 30 kilometers above the surface of the Earth," he said, before the connection broke.

"Another really fun fact is that we held a link all the way down to 122 kilometers while we were de-orbiting a satellite," he said. "And we were able to downstream the video."

[...] For the future, SpaceX plans on expanding its laser system so that it can be ported and installed on third-party satellites. The company has also explored beaming the satellite lasers directly to terminals on the Earth's surface to deliver data. But Brashears said a "deeper study" is necessary to enable the technology.

Related stories on SoylentNews:
Sony to Build Space Lasers With New Satellite Services Unit - 20220606
CubeSat Set to Demonstrate NASA's Fastest Laser Link from Space - 20220530
DoD Space Agency Funds Development of Laser Terminal that Connects to Multiple Satellite at Once - 20220313
Exploring Together, NASA and Industry Embrace Laser Communications - 20211130
SpaceX Paused Starlink Launches to Give its Internet Satellites Lasers - 20210826


Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @09:17AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @09:17AM (#1171369)

    Are they Jewish?

    • (Score: 2, Funny) by Mockingbird on Friday August 27 2021, @09:41AM (1 child)

      by Mockingbird (15239) on Friday August 27 2021, @09:41AM (#1171374) Journal

      Sharks.

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Tork on Friday August 27 2021, @05:11PM

        by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @05:11PM (#1171464)
        Sigh. Bozos making me update my sig.
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    • (Score: 2) by TheGratefulNet on Friday August 27 2021, @02:41PM

      by TheGratefulNet (659) on Friday August 27 2021, @02:41PM (#1171440)

      its almost friday nite, so we'll let you know in a day or so.

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    • (Score: 2) by TheGratefulNet on Friday August 27 2021, @02:47PM

      by TheGratefulNet (659) on Friday August 27 2021, @02:47PM (#1171444)

      in some future holiday, a son will ask his father

      "Why is this wavelength different from all other wavelengths?."

      On most nights, we use normal light; but tonite we use coherent light.

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday August 27 2021, @10:45AM (13 children)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday August 27 2021, @10:45AM (#1171381) Journal

    So to what extent can these obviate the need for ground stations? And will China shoot them down?

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    • (Score: 2) by pkrasimirov on Friday August 27 2021, @11:34AM

      by pkrasimirov (3358) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @11:34AM (#1171389)

      No but they will shoot any guy whom they suspect of connecting with the satelites.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @11:51AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @11:51AM (#1171394)

      It's so they can communicate between themselves. TFS implies that each constellation they launch needs its own ground station, so if you can have high speed inter satellite comms, then you can get by with fewer ground stations to get the data up/down. It will be interesting to see how they plan to manage that. The systems that I am aware of are dedicated terminals between satellites, like the two GRACE satellites, but here is the constellation fixed, or do the satellites drift all over the place? The pointing and acquisition of the Link part becomes a different thing if you're not always linking to the same satellite.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:16PM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:16PM (#1171398)

        Thanks for the laser explanation.
        Neither the article nor the submission explained shit.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:37PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:37PM (#1171403)

          Well, I'm ASSUMING they are laser comm terminals and not some evil space based take over the world scheme by Drax, er, I mean Musk.

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @02:43PM

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @02:43PM (#1171441) Journal

            They can be both.

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      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @10:33PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @10:33PM (#1171552)

        The first generation of inter-sat links are to nearby satellites in the same plane, so relative velocity is close to zero. Basically the same as Iridium but with lasers. This is the minimum requirement to offer service near the poles and to ships and aircraft at sea. The ten satellites that have serviced Alaska since January are all equipped with prototypes of this system and they are now making it standard equipment.

        Inter-plane links offer greater flexibility but as you say are much more difficult to build. I don't think SpaceX have cracked that nut yet but they are probably already working on it. It might be ready for the v2.0 birds set to fly next year, but maybe not.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @02:19PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @02:19PM (#1171427) Journal

      to what extent can these obviate the need for ground stations?

      Jack and Jill are two Starlink users far apart. Jack is giving Jill a large, no huge file which Jill willingly accepts. This takes a long time.

      Is it possible that all the packets involved can traverse the Starlink constellation without involvement of any ground station (other than Jack and Jill's dishy)?

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    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:31PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:31PM (#1171478)

      So to what extent can these obviate the need for ground stations?

      Regardless of the capacity of the satellites, when a Starlink customer wants to google somebody, they need to reach one of Google's computers located in a datacenter, somewhere on the ground. And that datacenter is connected to the internet by a fiber optic cable, not a Starlink terminal. So SpaceX still needs to maintain ground stations, that adapt signals between satellites and fiber optic cables. But this feature might enable SpaceX to make several satellite hops before hitting a groundstation.

      • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday August 27 2021, @05:55PM (2 children)

        by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday August 27 2021, @05:55PM (#1171491) Journal

        Ideally, they don't have to put ground stations where they aren't welcome. Someone in North Korea could (theoretically) connect to satellites with their smuggled-in dish, the satellites communicate with each other, and a ground station is reached in Totally Free Internet Land.

        Musk has already raised the concern about China blowing sats out of the sky space:

        Elon Musk's plan to blanket Earth in high-speed internet may face a big threat: China [businessinsider.com]

        So what if SpaceX continued to broadcast uncensored internet over China, despite not being given permission?

        "If they get upset with us, they can blow our satellites up, which wouldn't be good," Musk said. "China can do that. So probably we shouldn't broadcast there."

        We could see a situation where the satellites do not communicate with terminals in hostile countries capable of destroying satellites, but places that have had internet blackouts in the past like Egypt can no longer just hit the kill switch. Terminals can provide Wi-Fi connections to nearby users, and you might even be able to have a (crappy) meshnet with smartphones.

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      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @10:42PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @10:42PM (#1171554)

        Starlink is co-locating their ground stations at Google datacenters. The deal includes access to Google's fibre backbone links. As you say the entire point of inter-sat links is so they can service remote areas that don't have nearby ground stations. There are still limits and most countries will require that their Starlink customers use ground stations within their territory, but it does increase their effective coverage by quite a bit.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:16PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @12:16PM (#1171399)

    Testing the lasers got far enough so it was worth slowing down the launch cadence to get more.

    Anything published on speeds and feeds?
    How many telescopes/lasers per bird?
    Two would give them a communications ring around the train.
    That ought to be a relatively continuous/stable comm path.

    More would let them connect between trains. But that seems more advanced with the trains moving with respect to each other.
    That would be a more interesting path to keep up and route packets over.
    Perhaps a few birds will have extra for more experiments.

    Good to see the system progressing.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday August 27 2021, @02:20PM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Friday August 27 2021, @02:20PM (#1171428) Journal

      They would also like to start launching them with Starship, although that probably can't happen until at least the middle of next year.

      SpaceX says Starship will launch the next generation of Starlink satellites [teslarati.com]

      It’s not entirely clear but it appears that both Config 1 and Config 2 constellations would rely on the same Gen2 satellite design, which SpaceX says will be significantly larger and more powerful than existing Starlink V1.0 satellites, which weigh approximately 260 kg (~570 lb) each, produce ~3 kW of solar power, and have a maximum bandwidth of ~18 gigabits per second (Gbps).

      In contrast, Starlink Gen2 satellites, which SpaceX says Starship will launch on a single ‘plane’ basis (meaning one plane per launch), appear to be several times larger. Assuming Starship is capable of launching 100-150 tons (~220,000-330,000 lb) to the low Earth orbits Starlink Gen2 is targeting, each Starship will launch up to 120 satellites – each weighing approximately 850-1250 kg. SpaceX’s original June 2020 Gen2 filing implied that the next generation of Starlink satellites would have up to three times the maximum bandwidth of existing V1.0 satellites (~50+ Gbps). In its modified August 2021 Gen2 filing, SpaceX says those satellites will be even more capable, still.

      In other words, SpaceX seems to be implying that future Starlink satellites will likely weigh around one ton (~2200 lb) each, be capable of a maximum individual bandwidth of some 60-80 Gbps, and have solar arrays capable of supplying something like 15-20 kilowatts to power an army of antennas. If SpaceX ultimately wins FCC approval, the ~30,000 satellite Starlink Gen2 constellation as proposed would have a total instantaneous bandwidth of at least 500 terabits per second (Tbps) over land (~1800 Tbps including ocean coverage). As of 2020, the total installed bandwidth of global internet infrastructure was estimated to be 600 Tbps.

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    • (Score: 2) by hendrikboom on Monday August 30 2021, @11:23PM

      by hendrikboom (1125) Subscriber Badge on Monday August 30 2021, @11:23PM (#1172592) Homepage Journal

      See RFC 1149 [ietf.org]
      updated by RFC 2549 [ietf.org]
      and RFC 6214 [ietf.org]

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @02:09PM (10 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @02:09PM (#1171421)

    SpaceX has filed paperwork for up to 42,000 satellites for the constellation.

    With that many in orbit, there will be dozens visible from any place on earth at any given time. I leave it at exercise to the reader to calculate the exact number, assuming visibility down to 30 degrees above horizon.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @02:23PM (9 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @02:23PM (#1171429) Journal

      With that many in orbit, would it be possible on short notice to deliberately move a satellite to cause a collision with an enemy nation's satellite?

      With that many in orbit, could many of them focus their lasers on an enemy nation's satellite, and hand off as more starlink sats come in and out of range of the enemy sat?

      With that many in orbit, could they illuminate their lasers in such a way as to form a giant advertising billboard to bless the people of earth with continuous nighttime full sky ads?

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      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @04:44PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @04:44PM (#1171459)

        Hey, do you think they can modulate the laser with an audio signal so that whatever the laser hits will act like a soundboard and play back the audio? That would be cool, big loud ads...

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:37PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:37PM (#1171482)

          A laser big enough to do that would be a viable propulsion system.

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @05:52PM

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @05:52PM (#1171487) Journal

            A propulsion system does not increase ad impressions or click through. Those are the only metrics that matter to our civilization.

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @08:47PM

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @08:47PM (#1171533)

            No need, you just have to make it resonate. You can do that with very little power. You can use the air itself

      • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday August 27 2021, @05:14PM (3 children)

        by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @05:14PM (#1171467)
        I'm not a hardware or physics guy but aren't we talking about very low power lasers spread across distances that make dialogue in Star Trek space battles kinda boring?
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        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @05:54PM (2 children)

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @05:54PM (#1171489) Journal

          A joke about lasers for advertising is better than a joke about sharks with lasers. Maybe. But the latter has stood the test of time.

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          • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday August 27 2021, @08:06PM (1 child)

            by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @08:06PM (#1171521)
            oops... did i earn a woosh?
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            • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Friday August 27 2021, @08:32PM

              by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Friday August 27 2021, @08:32PM (#1171528) Journal

              No. :-)

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      • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:35PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 27 2021, @05:35PM (#1171480)

        Every satellite in orbit is tracked within a few hundred meters by several nation states, not all of which are allied. Starlink satellites are also at a very low altitude and their ion drives aren't exactly speedsters. It would take a very long time (months to years, assuming they have enough fuel) if they attempted that against a deployed satellite, and if they attempted it against a satellite being launched it would pollute their own orbital layer with debris while still being obvious what happened. Keep in mind that the 'close call' with OneWeb had a couple of week's notice of a close pass and SpaceX wanted to wait for the next report because they only needed a week to avoid a collision.

        No. The lasers aren't very bright to start with (to save power), can only focus on nearby satellites (to save weight), and have limited tracking speed (saves size and weight). The v2 satellites are likely limited to tracking satellites in the same plane, that is one or two ahead and behind in the same orbit. Even if v3 adds near-plane tracking (not an easy problem) it would still be limited to nearby satellites.

        No. Even if they were visible spectrum lasers they still aren't very bright and the focal range isn't that far. Having the entire constellation visible at once likely wouldn't be enough.

  • (Score: 2) by corey on Friday August 27 2021, @11:28PM

    by corey (2202) on Friday August 27 2021, @11:28PM (#1171562)

    Hm, I thought they all had EO comms modules for inter-satellite links in their as launched configuration. Sounds like some are and some not. I find it interesting, the alignment would be a challenge. But maybe not with some MRUs or gimbals and software. Maybe they all have a good ideas of their relative positions and share it between themselves.

    From Wikipedia:

    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. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).[178][179] 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.[180] Early satellites were launched without laser links. The inter-satellite laser links were successfully tested in late 2020.[181][182]

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