Almost everyone has heard by now that Elon Musk wants to launch well over 40,000 new satellites into space to deliver high-speed and low-latency internet to the entire planet. Musk is calling this worldwide internet project ‘Starlink,’ and while only a fraction of those satellites has been approved for launch by governing entities, there’s a very real chance that this could change in the near future.
Starlink aims to create a satellite swam around the entire planet that seamlessly covers almost every square foot of the planet at any given time. Those satellites will deliver internet services to users on the ground below them, and they’ll do it with less latency than modern-day fiber optic internet because data will be transferred through the vacuum of space rather than through fiber optic glass cables.
The Starlink satellites will operate at approximately 550 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, which is just high enough to remain in orbit, but not high enough to remain in geostationary orbit. With that in mind, the net of Starlink satellites will be constantly moving and trading off information with one another to ensure the delivery of high-quality internet services in even the most inopportune locations.
Starlink offers the best solution yet at delivering high-speed internet to rural and poorer regions where existing internet solutions are either too slow or too expensive to be used effectively. With that in mind, while Starlink may have implications for future astronomical observations, it also aims to solve one of humankind’s most significant quandaries: global communication.