It’s all over the news that SpaceX has received the go-ahead from the FCC for placing thousands of new internet-beaming satellites (dubbed the Starlink constellation) into orbit. At roughly 300-400 kilometers up, they’ll be lower than some satellites, which SpaceX hopes will reduce latency.
Plans to mitigate space debris are underway, with NASA estimating mandatory removal from space for maintenance/repairs every 5 years will be necessary. Otherwise, as pieces break the likelihood of collisions will increase dramatically.
When I heard a couple years ago that Facebook was thinking of sending something similar to weather balloons into lesser developed areas to beam internet down I was curious to see what would happen. At least that I know of not much came of that, but this seems like it could be a step in the same direction.
The Verge’s article on this, where I first read about this SpaceX news, made it sound like these satellites would primarily be serving “American customers.” So who knows. Maybe at first that’s all it will be, but there seems like a lot of potential for directing internet elsewhere on the planet since these satellites will be orbiting 24/7 after all. With that as a possibility, nations without well-developed infrastructures could conceivably get online with any wi-fi enabled device. The latter part of that is admittedly a challenge in itself, but if the only barrier to getting online was needing a mobile device it’s a lot simpler than alternatives.
Starlink has the theoretical capacity to transmit at twice the throughput of conventional fiber optic cables, since signal speeds are slower through glass than space. Note that this linked article at Universe Today does speculate at the global availability of internet for small villages, ships, and mountains.
Something to track, for sure. Let’s see what happens.