Starlink is Musk’s satellite Internet constellation meant to provide the world with satellite Internet access. As part of SpaceX, it will comprise thousands of mass-produced small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) that will work with ground transceivers.
Part of Musk’s plan is to sell some satellites for military, scientific, or exploratory purposes. Like most SpaceX research and development (R&D), Starlink satellite development, manufacture, and orbit control happen in Redmond, Washington. If plans push through unhindered, the Starlink project will take 10 years to design, build, and deploy, backed by at least a US$10-billion budget.
What Has Starlink Been Up to Since Its Inception?
Starlink’s network development began in 2015, and its prototype satellites were launched into orbit in 2018. To date, the project has successfully launched almost 1,300 satellites.
Here are a few important dates in Starlink’s history:
- January 2015: Starlink development was made known to the public during the opening of the Redmond facility.
- January 2016: SpaceX announced plans to launch two prototype satellites that year and that these will be operational by 2020.
- July 2016: SpaceX acquired a creative space in Irvine, California, and posted job openings for signal processing, radio-frequency integrated circuit (RFIC), and application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) development for Starlink.
- October 2016: SpaceX developed initial Starlink satellites set for launch and testing in 2017, but that was not to be.
- November 2016: SpaceX filed an application for a “non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite system in the Fixed-Satellite Service using the Ku- and Ka- frequency bands” with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- March 2017: SpaceX filed plans with the FCC to launch more than 7,500 satellites for commercial communications services.
- August 2017: SpaceX trademarked “Starlink.”
- March 2018: FCC approved SpaceX’s application.
- May 2018: SpaceX reorganized its satellite development division and terminated several members of senior management.
- August 2018: SpaceX Seattle-area operations were consolidated to a larger facility to support satellite R&D and manufacturing.
- November 2018: SpaceX received U.S. regulatory approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 approved earlier.
- December 2018: The U.S. Air Force issued a US$28-million contract for specific Starlink test services.
- February 2019: SpaceX sister company SpaceX Services Inc. filed an FCC request for a license to operate up to a million fixed satellite Earth stations that would communicate with Starlink.
- April 2019: SpaceX transitioned satellite efforts from R&D to manufacturing.
- June 2019: SpaceX communicated with most of its Starlink satellites but lost contact with a few. It also applied for a license to test up to 270 ground terminals across the U.S. with FCC.
- September 2019: SpaceX made more changes to its Starlink plans.
- October 2019: Musk publicly tested the Starlink network using an Internet connection routed through its network to post a tweet.
- November 2019: Falcon 9 delivered 60 Starlink satellites to orbit.
- December 2019: FCC approved the most recent Starlink plan changes.
- April 2020: Starlink satellites were launched and modified its network architecture. It also modified its FCC application.
- June 2020: SpaceX applied for using the E-band in the Gen2 constellation in the U.S. It also filed an application with Canadian regulatory authorities for a license to offer high-speed Internet services.
- August 2020: A Falcon rocket delivered 58 more broadband relay nodes. SpaceX began producing approximately 120 satellites a month.
- October 2020: SpaceX deorbited its prototype v0.9 satellites. Canada also granted it a license to work in the country.
- November 2020: SpaceX conducted its millionth Starlink test and doubled its connection speed.
- January 2021: SpaceX released 10 new Starlink satellites, the first to go to polar orbits.
- February 2021: SpaceX announced that Starlink reached more than 10,000 users. Starlink opened up pre-orders to the public.
- March 2021: SpaceX launched a total of 1,265 Starlink satellites. It applied for mobile variations of its terminal for vehicles, vessels, and aircraft with FCC.
What Is Starlink’s Goal?
The rationale behind Starlink’s creation was to let users in currently unserviceable areas access the Internet at high speed.
Where Is Starlink Available?
For now, those areas are limited to the northwestern parts of the U.S. and nearby locales in Canada. Musk, however, told prospective customers of global availability by 2022.
How Can You Enjoy Starlink’s Benefits?
With Starlink hardware (satellite dish and router) set up at home, users will receive an Internet signal from space for a monthly fee of US$99 plus an initial fee of US$499.
Starlink comes with an Android or iOS app that uses augmented reality (AR) to help users pick the best location for their receivers. But the service is only available in select regions right now.
How Fast Is Starlink?
Users can enjoy 50–150 Mbps Internet connectivity in most locations, although they may have brief periods of no connectivity at all due to unfavorable weather conditions and the like.
Starlink still has about a year and a half to make Musk’s promises come true. But if that means Internet connectivity for more people and at great speed at that, we can expect more exciting news and updates ahead.