StarLink and Mobile Internet

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I have posted frequently about the disruptive technology coming very soon to deliver internet data services to homes and mobile platforms. Very soon (we hope) dealing with Verizon and ATT using what is now very dated cellular technology will be a distant nightmare.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has just launched another 60 StarLink satellites into orbit. Including the two prototype satellites there are now 182 StarLink satellites in orbit. Each launch of a Falcon 9 injects 60 new satellites into orbit. Starlink needs 8 launches (480 satellites) to get the system operational in North America, a goal they hope to reach this year having launched 3 all ready. For global coverage the need 24 launches (1,440 satellites). After the initial 1,440 satellites are launched all additional satellites will allow more capacity. Right now SpaceX is approved to launch 12,000 satellites and is seeking permission to launch 30,000 or more satellites in the future.

This system will not be like Iridium or cellular services. In order to use StarLink you will need a user terminal (also under development by SpaceX). The user terminal consists of a flat panel phased array antenna and a modem box. The US military is actively testing StarLink and has demonstrated download speeds to a moving airplane at 610 megabits/sec. SpaceX has not confirmed pricing but there is some suggestion it could be around $100/month for the service.

So keep watching the news and keep track of how many successful launches take place. With any luck by the end of the year we may have super fast internet in our coaches everywhere you have a clear view of the sky. Hopefully the phase array flat panel antenna with be small enough to easily move it back and forth between a coach and a fixed home. With luck they will have SIM card authorization allowing moving between fixed installation in a coach or a house.
 
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Unless something changes drastically with the current pricing structure of satellite data it will be cost prohibitive. Our budget per aircraft I had in the flight department I managed was $500K per year for unlimited data on KA band Satellite.

One can hope but I’m not very optimistic.
 
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Unless something changes drastically with the current pricing structure of satellite data it will be cost prohibitive. Our budget per aircraft I had in the flight department I managed was $500K per year for unlimited data on KA band Satellite.

One can hope but I’m not very optimistic.

There are reasons to think the StarLink internet system will be much less expensive than current satellite based systems. Start with each launch $60 million cheaper because they reuse the Falcon 9 first stage for each launch. Time will tell. This is the third generation attempt to put a consumer level LEO internet system in place since the 1990's. Hopefully this one works. I am not going to be buying any more cellular equipment until I see how this goes in 2020.
 
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If $100/month for 610 down and even a fraction of that up turns out to be anywhere near accurate in terms of cost, I’m in.
 
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I'd be in for that too as if you combine your cellular costs, okay MY cellular costs now it far exceeds that. Equipment costs will be interesting too. I'm sure some of us will bite the big bullet as early adopters and it will eventually tame down for wider use. Someone had to do this, the cost of towers and maintenance of antennas can't be cheap.
 
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From an Elon Musk tweet today talking about user terminal antenna:

@ElonMusk: Looks like a thin, flat, round UFO on a stick. Starlink Terminal has motors to self-adjust optimal angle to view sky. Instructions are simply: - Plug in socket - Point at sky These instructions work in either order. No training required.
 
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Waiting for stock market buy in :)
 
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I realize SpaceX is deploying them but I would imagine the actual Internet provider that is formed would be a separate company like Tesla. Hoping at least.
 
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I realize SpaceX is deploying them but I would imagine the actual Internet provider that is formed would be a separate company like Tesla. Hoping at least.

That makes sense but so far no public discussion. Sounds like a great spin off to fund Elon's trip to Mars.

The fun part will be when it goes live. I would bet there will be some very enticing pricing options to encourage early adopters like us to break away from cell phone companies, Iridium and wired internet. Elon almost aways delivers on his dream projects but sometimes they are many years behind earlier predictions. Going live by the end of 2020 sounds very ambitious to me. However if you look at the Falcon 9 manifests for the next few months he has at least one Falcon 9 a month taking up another 60 satellites.
 
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Another 60 StarLink satellites going up on January 20th. This thing is looking real. Lots of messages on the internet about folks trying to sign up for beta testing. So far no indication of an organized effort by SpaceX. RV's would be a logical group.
 
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Another 60 StarLink satellites just deployed a few minutes ago. Two more launches scheduled in February. This new internet system is going to happen.

StarLink can only operate with the support of ground stations that provide the back haul. Based on recent FCC filings the first ground stations being built are primarily in the Western US. So as the service is rolled out it will likely begin the West and roll East.
 
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In my world of the internet I do a lot of work through VPN. The communication delay using current satellite technology would not allow me to use it. Hopefully they will improve it.
 
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StarLink is designed as a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) system specifically to reduce transit time (Latency). My current comcast cable internet setup pings at 28ms. The Latency will be similar to a typical cable installation or better. 10-20 ms https://www.reddit.com/r/Starlink/comments/btm16g
 
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Wow... I wonder if they will get the technology small enough to fit into a cellphone.
it would be nice to basically have a SATphone/Data connection even in the middle of the ocean floating in a rubber raft. Revolutionary!!!
 
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Wow... I wonder if they will get the technology small enough to fit into a cellphone.
it would be nice to basically have a SATphone/Data connection even in the middle of the ocean floating in a rubber raft. Revolutionary!!!
Sat Phones are quite common in the Cruising community. These phones for what they provide are reasonably inexpensive. Friends that are transiting the Pacific on what most would consider a "rubber raft" call in and Text routinely with their InReach sat phone.
 
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Sat Phones are quite common in the Cruising community. These phones for what they provide are reasonably inexpensive. Friends that are transiting the Pacific on what most would consider a "rubber raft" call in and Text routinely with their InReach sat phone.
Very true...but they probably can’t stream a movie or get those download speeds. That’s what is so amazing.
 
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SpaceX confirmed 242 satellites now in orbit. Looks like 10 of those satellites have some problems and are being de-orbited. SpaceX has said it designed these satellites for low cost and high speed manufacturing. It fully expects a mortality rate. When they fail they are de-orbited to burn up in the atmosphere. Still looking for around 1,400 in orbit to begin competitive internet service in North America. So we have a way to go. Right now they are maintaining a 120 satellite per month pace that is expected to increase through the year. All this is facilitated by cost and turn out time by the reuse of the first stage booster. Todays booster was making its third trip into space and was recovered successfully. The economics of all this is reinventing space travel. A first stage booster costs $60 million. The propellant cost for that booster is around $400,000. So every reuse of a first stage saves $60 million. To look at it another way the per satellite launch cost for StarLink is reduced by $1 million every time SpaceX can reuse a booster.
 

Jim

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SpaceX confirmed 242 satellites now in orbit. Looks like 10 of those satellites have some problems and are being de-orbited. SpaceX has said it designed these satellites for low cost and high speed manufacturing. It fully expects a mortality rate. When they fail they are de-orbited to burn up in the atmosphere. Still looking for around 1,400 in orbit to begin competitive internet service in North America. So we have a way to go. Right now they are maintaining a 120 satellite per month pace that is expected to increase through the year. All this is facilitated by cost and turn out time by the reuse of the first stage booster. Todays booster was making its third trip into space and was recovered successfully. The economics of all this is reinventing space travel. A first stage booster costs $60 million. The propellant cost for that booster is around $400,000. So every reuse of a first stage saves $60 million. To look at it another way the per satellite launch cost for StarLink is reduced by $1 million every time SpaceX can reuse a booster.
In late 2019, SpaceX said they wanted to put up 40,000 of these satellites. And while I find the endeavor to be fascinating, I have trouble with humans adding that many satellites to the mess already up there. And we all know it's not going to end there. How long before there are 100's of thousands of satellites cluttering up the neighborhood?

It's a brave new world for sure.
 
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