Another day, one other SpaceX launch. On Thursday morning, after three delays earlier within the week, SpaceX efficiently launched its newest Falcon 9 to drop off some low-earth-orbit satellites.
Along with the primary payload of an imaging satellite tv for pc to supply information for the Spanish Ministry of Defense, SpaceX additionally unloaded two smaller satellites that may take a look at out expertise for the corporate’s deliberate Starlink venture: an web infrastructure made out of 1000’s of low-earth satellites to deliver high-speed web to probably the most underserved corners of the planet.
Satellite web isn’t a brand new idea, however Elon Musk’s plans differ from the present choices. Right now, satellite tv for pc web is supplied through giant satellites in geostationary orbit very excessive above the earth. Subscribers get a dish on their home that pulls within the sign, permitting them to hook up with the web in distant and rural areas the place different choices, like mounted wi-fi or cable web, aren’t accessible.
But this type of service has a whole lot of issues. The distance between the geostationary satellite tv for pc and the one on the aspect of your own home is to date that there’s usually a lag in service, making it troublesome to do issues like stream video. Weather and atmospheric circumstances may block the sign. And regardless of the lag and inconsistency of service, they’re usually very costly choices.
For Starlink, the plan is as a substitute to create these big networks of many small satellites always transferring in very low earth orbit. This would, theoretically, scale back the lag time and enhance the pace and consistency. Other firms, resembling Iridium, have comparable plans to construct these sorts of networks.
For these initiatives to work, there must be superior communication and navigation between the satellites, since it’ll require 1000’s—in SpaceX’s case, greater than 10,000—of sats to cowl sufficient space to be helpful.
In areas the place broadband entry is proscribed or nonexistent, this might present a brand new choice for getting on-line. But on the finish of the day, no expertise can prime fiber to the premises web. While bold initiatives to construct constellations of small satellites to cowl the globe in high-speed connection will definitely assist shut the digital divide, we will’t lean on these as an excuse to cease investing in long-lasting, gold-standard infrastructure.
Motherboard is empowering individuals to construct community-owned broadband networks . For common updates, subscribe to this text .