Since the start of the space-age, approximately 8,800 objects are embarked on Earth’s orbit. But that number could increase significantly during a few years. Private companies decide to launch satellite mega-constellations into space to transmit the internet to customers on Earth. Elon Musk’s SpaceX alone has announced their plans to launch 42,000 satellites as a part of its Starlink internet project. When that occurs, SpaceX will be responsible for a few fivefold increase in the number of spacecraft launched by humankind.
Technically, a satellite refers to anybody orbiting another, more massive body in space, just like the sun orbits the Earth and the moon orbits the Earth. But once we mention satellites, we usually believe human-made satellites. The primary human-made satellite embarked on space was called Sputnik, and it had been about the dimensions of a ball. Sputnik has announced the space race launch. And we’ve been launching more and more objects into space since then.
Tech Giants in this field
What is Mega-Constellation
A mega constellation is a network comprising hundreds or even thousands of satellites all circling and operating in a complete structure. These companies are pursuing these mega-constellations that come right down to mainly two factors. One is that the hardware cost for these kinds of satellites has dropped and has shrunk considerably in scale. And so the second is because there’s a growing demand for data around the World. An increasingly valuable asset is thus the provision of high-speed data to any point on Earth. Satellites providing internet are not inherently a replacement concept. Companies, like ViaSat and Hughes Network Systems, are now transmitting the internet to remote parts of the globe that are not served by optical fiber cable connections.
GEO Satellite Problems
Approximately 49 percent of households around the World are not yet linked to the internet. And these are the folks that traditional satellite companies have tried to succeed in. Today, there’s only a small number of consumer internet offerings over satellite. They tend to be costly, and that they also tend to possess reasonably low numbers of users. Out of our already 100 million households, there are just around 2 million consumers within the U.S. that use satellite Internet. One big problem with the new satellite networks is latency. Standard satellites orbit very far from the Earth’s surface, so the distance increases total latency in the overall system. Latency is sensitivity to networks.
And if you stream something online, it’s how quickly it loads, or how smoothly it’s working. Today, most internet providing satellites operate in what’s called ‘geostationary orbit,’ which is around 36,000 kilometers above the sea level and remains fixed on top of one area.
Advantages of LEO satellites
The satellite systems proposed by SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and Telesat will work in what is considered the ‘low earth orbit (LEO),’ or about 180-2,000 kilometers above the surface of Earth. In theory, this could cut down on the latency issues, with accelerates the speed to twenty times faster than current GEO satellites. But to urge an equivalent coverage with LEO satellites, you need more of them.
Light speed in fiber is 40% lower than in air or vacuum. You can build a quite extensive low Earth orbit satellite network and have high-speed communication capability because they’re lower. You need more of them to cover a productive area, right? They’re probably not able to see every part of the Earth’s surface. But our higher orbiting satellites will not be ready to depart with a much smaller number of actual orbital vehicles, as these new, lower earth orbit constellations require more.
However, there’s more to it than that. It also got to have adequate power, and if it is going to provide many people with wireless connectivity, they also need to have lots of capacity to handle different requests. Hence, you need more and more satellites to do that.
Ground stations for communication
If it is acceptable to have 10-20 thousand or more satellites circling for each of those is yet to be seen. Satellites still need something to get and distribute signals back on Earth.
In addition to building the satellites for this mega-constellation, these companies need to invest in massive amounts of infrastructure that will appear as if thousands or perhaps many antennas around the globe, which will receive the signal from the satellites and will distribute it to the ground consumers.
Plans to supply the internet from space may sound familiar as both Facebook and Google have considered developing these sorts of satellites before. But after talking about their Athena satellite, Facebook hasn’t revealed anything in over a year. And Google is one of SpaceX’s most prominent investors in the program. So they’re expected to seem very carefully at how Starlink is developed.
Reuseable rockets for Cost efficiency
Tech firms SpaceX and Amazon are the most prominent companies planning mega-constellations, as are satellite builders OneWeb and Telesat. The pioneer in this group, at least by the number of satellites launched, is SpaceX, because so far this year they have launched 120 of their Starlink satellites, and are expected to launch another 60 quite early. They are using SpaceX’s renewable Falcon 9 rocket. It significantly reduces the value of sending satellites into space.
FCC records reveal that after at least 800 satellites are deployed, SpaceX expects Starlink to become operational. The primary value of Starlinkis is providing low latency, high bandwidth access to sparse and moderately sparse, like a relatively low-density area. It’s probably ready to serve like three to 5 percent of individuals in the World.
SpaceX began with the idea of launching 12,000 satellites. But in October 2019, the corporate requested permission for a further 30,000. SpaceX has asked the FCC for up to 1 million Earth stations to be used by end-users to communicate with their satellites. Additionally, the U.S. Air Force is evaluating Starlink’s satellites on their combat aircraft and has received positive results from sofar. SpaceX has said it would continue to provide internet service by 2020. Close on the heels of SpaceX is OneWeb, which already builds its satellites and launches six earlier this year.
OneWeb CEO “We’ve done a venture with Airbus and that we have a factory at Cape Canaveral and we’ve really found out a supply chain and we’re using an equivalent satellite over and over again to populate our system. And we’re getting to produce 650 for the primary layer of capacity, which can be for global coverage. But we’ll go all the high to 2,000”.
Unlike SpaceX, OneWeb has its collection of big-name investors like Softbank and Richard Branson, a British business magnate. OneWeb claims the development of each of its satellites costs around $1 billion. But unlike SpaceX, OneWeb will rely on Soyuz rockets built in Russia to launch its satellites. In comparison to OneWeb and SpaceX, Amazon has yet to launch any satellites and is evolving early, as it is still pursuing regulatory approval for its Kuiper Network project. Amazon’s Kuiper Plan seeks to launch a total of 3236 satellites into low-Earth orbit. Back in April 2019, Amazon recruited the previous pioneer of SpaceX’s satellite program to pursue Project Kuiper Musk terminated him. As indicated by reports, Musk had gotten baffled with the pace of Starlink’s turn of events.
Focuses on Ground stations
Although it’s behind on building satellites, Amazon has a head start the on-ground foundation. In November 2019, the organization declared AWS Ground Station, another specialty unit that will assemble twelve satellite offices around the globe to offer the elemental connection expected to communicate to and from satellites in orbit. Additionally, the blend is Canadian satellite manufacturer Telesat, which has gotten noteworthy of venture thus far yet hasn’t propelled any satellites, however. They’re negotiating with companies that might build their network, which is estimated to cost about $3 billion.
Now astronomers are anxious about the launching of this new, large constellations. The amount that’s planned would exceed all satellites launched so far. And therefore, the real challenge here isn’t necessarily the number of latest launches; it is the light, how bright the stuff would be that they can saturate our detectors and cause all sorts of difficulties in astronomical observation. The telescope is used to capture distant stars and galaxies, rather than capturing the sunshine trails of 19 Starlink satellites. Since SpaceX launched its primary 60 Starlink satellites in May 2019, some astronomers took to Twitter to voice their concerns.
Summarized After astronomers raised these questions, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said during a tweet that his company would test whether individual Starlink satellites would decrease their brightness or not. In December 2019, SpaceX President Gwen Shotwell also told reporters that they were working to address the challenge. On its third mission, SpaceX will place a special coating on the bottom of 1 of the satellites to test whether it would diminish the satellite’s brightness or not.
These satellites could also impact radio astronomy. The International Astronomical Union, in a statement following the initial launch of Starlink’s spacecraft, summarized its concerns: “Following significant attempts to avoid collision with radio astronomy frequencies, aggregate radio signals emitted from the satellite mega-constellation can still endanger radio astronomical observations. Late advances in radio astronomy, for instance , creating the first image of a black hole or seeing more about the arrangement of planetary frameworks were just conceivable through deliberate endeavors in protecting the radio sky from the impedance.”
Another significant concern is garbage. It is summed up by a hypothesis called the Kessler Syndrome, which sets that when two items crash in space, they produce more flotsam and jetsam that slams into different particles, making far more shrapnel and litter until the entirety of Earth’s lower orbit is impassible. This speculative situation became animated in February of 2009 when a latent Russian interchanges satellite Cosmo’s 2251, crashed into a functioning business correspondence satellite that US-based Iridium Satellite worked. This unfortunate incident produced around 2,000 pieces of debris. Debris is especially essential considering that SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon have said that their satellites would have a lifeline of only five to seven years, which is about half the lifespan of traditional satellites.
Once the companies are done with the satellites or malfunction in orbit, they plan to de-orbit them, which means that the spacecraft will be purposely forced down to the Earth’s atmosphere, where they would burn up during re-entry time.
One of the critical questions facing this industry is who regulates this mega-constellation. And that’s a grey area. We have no authority to authorize or deny any spatial operation of any sovereign government or any corporation.
Companies fall under the jurisdiction of the state in which they live. Such states are responsible for developing an authorization scheme and maintaining supervision. Within the U.S., the authority to manage these satellites falls mainly on the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is responsible for the allocation of radio frequencies and the removal of any debris arising from those satellites.
Certain U.S. agencies include the Air Force, the FAA, and NOAA in some cases as well. The Air Force maintains the official catalog of objects on an orbit that the U.S. uses to avoid conjunctions and shut approaches. The FAA controls the launch permissions, and if you’ve got a camera looking down thereon, you’d need a permit from the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).
The connectivity market around the World is undoubtedly well north of a trillion dollars. Of course, you’ve got to seem at what the addressable market is for every one of those companies. In some cases, if you are lucky enough to test in one of those places, they won’t compete too well with your local cell provider or even your fiber to the housing provider. Except for areas where there aren’t tons of excellent options or even no options today, this is often getting to be a unique opportunity. However, caution is that there’s a limit to what many of us within the World pays for the internet services; if you reside in an area where you lack clean water or even don’t have a consistent food supply, having internet service might not be your priority.
CEO OneWeb “We ‘re focused first on the verticals where people are able to pay tons in aircraft and on vessels immediately. then we’re also working with partners. And those partners are governments and they’re also terrestrial mobile operators that want to increase their networks. then once we believe what we’re trying to do like our social mission, which is to connect everyone, I mean, the simplest kind of line about the corporate is OneWeb one world. we would like everybody to be connected.”
Still, some skilled satellite companies aren’t buying into the hype of low Earth orbit mega-constellation. ViaSat currently serves approximately 600,000 US and European residential customers and is launching a geostationary replacement satellite that plans to start operation globally by 2022.
CEO Viasat “The reason we’ve concentrated on GEOs is that GEOs tend to be able to provide more bandwidth and capacity at a lower cost and that’s what our end users want. Several really important risks are still to be addressed in the LEO environment. Tons of that’s regulatory risk. It’s not clear that any individual company or country is going to be ready to scale safely to the amount of satellites that are being envisioned. And without that scale, there’s an enormous question about how economically viable these systems are going to be . And therefore the other really big issue is that the geographic distribution of demand. Once you do an LEO system, you’ve got to possess your satellites distributed consistent with orbital characteristics, not consistent with the demand on the bottom .”
In May 2019, Elon Musk predicted that Starlink could carry $30 billion a year, and that funding would be necessary for his dream of colonizing Mars. Experts agree that estimate isn’t far fetched. I think we got the basic idea about the Satellite mega-constellation presented by Different tech giants. Thanks for reading.
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