SpaceX is a Space Exploration Technologies Corp that works as an astronautic launch services provider and equipment manufacturer. Today, SpaceX made an announcement regarding the next-generation of its satellites. This announcement was made side-by-side to their 11th Starlink launch.
The current satellites that SpaceX has provided internet coverage globally. They do so by communicating with ground stations and user terminals to complete internet links. That happens to be one of the shortcomings of SpaceX’s first-gen satellites. They need to be in constant communication with ground stations. If that communication gets broken up the link between consumer and web servers breaks down.
SpaceX First-Gen Satellite Problems
The launch today has expanded SpaceX’s Starlink constellation size by another 60 satellites. Moreover, the company has launched more than 700 operational interconnectivity spacecraft to the lower orbit of the earth. Each one of these satellites is the first-gen one. This means that they’re all dependent on ground stations to properly execute their task.
This hinders SpaceX’s ability to provide internet services on a global scale. One problem that arises is the regulatory requirements that need to be handled. Moreover, the cost of providing the service also goes up. The company is forced to invest in setting up ground equipment and establishing a base.
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SpaceX Next-Generation Satellites
SpaceX plans to handle all these set-backs using the next-generation Starlink satellites. The company has decided to name them “Gen2“. The new system will include up to 30,000 non-geostationary orbits (NGSO) satellites. Moreover, more than two-thirds of these satellites will be orbiting below 400 kilometers. This strengthens the satellite’s range allowing them to improve coverage.
Furthermore, the next-gen satellites will not be dependent on ground stations. There will be no need for constant communication anymore. In order to achieve this feat, SpaceX plans to use optical links. These optical links will allow SpaceX to manage internet traffic while the satellites are in orbit.
Additional Features of the Next-Gen Starlink Satellites
At the Starlink launch today, Kate Tice – Senior Systems Certification Engineer at SpaceX – announced an important detail about the next-gen Starlink satellites. Firstly, Kate reassured that SpaceX has successfully tested inter-satellite links which her company calls ‘space lasers’. Secondly, these space lasers allow the two Starlink satellites to use those links to transfer massive volumes of data.
This is a commendable milestone for SpaceX. First off, it provides, the much-needed, validation to the optical link design that the Gen2 Starlink satellite will showcase. Furthermore, it reassures that the company is on the right path to soon start manufacturing these satellites.
Moreover, this would all fit well with the true design objectives of the constellation. Executives at the company have been persistent about the matter over the years and they are now one step closer.
SpaceX and the FCC
SpaceX filed to authorize the deployment of the Gen2 satellites with the FCC earlier in May. Using these satellites, the company plans to reduce latencies to under 50 milliseconds. Moreover, they plan to provide coverage to the Earth’s polar regions as well. Furthermore, the quality of this coverage will be similar to that provided by pre-existing on-ground internet service providers.
Additionally, the altitude range of operation is between 320 KM to 350 KM. Roughly 21,000 satellites will make use of Ka, Ku, and E-bands for inter-communication, user terminals, and gateways. All this information was made public when the company filed with the FCC.
G2 satellites will be able to inter-communicate using laser links but they will also work with gateway Earth stations, Moreover, they will also work with user terminals that currently work with the first-generation satellites.