Starlink ready to turn on laser satellites for internet coverage

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Space Exploration Technologies Corporation’s (SpaceX) satellite internet service Starlink is preparing to activate its first batch of new satellites. Starlink currently provides users with worldwide Internet coverage through its network of small satellites, ground stations and user terminals. To diversify coverage, improve speeds and reduce costly infrastructure costs, Starlink has also deployed new satellites with optical links, called lasers. These will allow the spacecraft to transfer data on its own and increase the range at which the network can operate without having to rely on ground stations.

On this front, Starlink has submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting permission to activate spacecraft in polar orbit.

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The application was filed in the FCC’s International Bureau filing system in mid-June and the Commission accepted it for filing earlier this month. He is seeking approval from the regulator to temporarily operate Starlink satellites at latitudes above 53 degrees, which are remote regions of Earth where internet connectivity is hard to come by.

Starlink uses its satellites to transfer data between users with dishes to its ground stations. Ground stations then transmit the data to Internet servers, after which they send it back to the spacecraft to complete the cycle SpaceX has built dozens of these stations all over the United States, but placing them in remote polar regions is more difficult than to install them in CONUS.

To these ends, the company has focused on launching satellites with inter-optical connectivity, or lasers, to serve the polar regions. This was confirmed by SpaceX chief Elon Musk early last year when he pointed out that all satellites going up this year will be equipped with lasers and that his company had limited itself to launching the spacecraft at the time only in the polar regions.

An interior view of the payload fairing of a Transporter-1 launch in January 2021 with all ten Starlinks visible at the bottom. The laser appendages have been circled in red. Image: SpaceX/Twitter, edited by Wccftech to show satellite lasers.

In its application, Starlink explains to the FCC that the request is only temporary in nature as it will operate the satellites at an elevation of 10 degrees. Starlink is currently licensed to operate its satellites at an upper elevation of 25 degrees, and he pointed out that lower angles are a “shutdown” measure before the constellation is able to provide service at 25 degrees. Lower angles allow lesser spacecraft to communicate with user terminals, but also result in poor communication due to longer distances and terrain characteristics.

According to Starlink:

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This request requests a carefully limited temporary authorization to only allow communications between SpaceX satellites and user terminals at elevation angles of at least 10 degrees in the polar regions, i.e. at latitudes above 53 degrees. This request does not request authorization to deploy additional satellites or earth stations. Nor does it seek to modify the technical or operational characteristics of the satellites and earth stations that the Commission has already authorized, except for this narrow modification of the minimum elevation angle observed in the polar regions. This interim operation will allow SpaceX to accelerate the deployment of its high-throughput, low-latency service to the polar regions of the United States in the interim before SpaceX’s system is sufficiently deployed to provide polar service to its 25 degrees already allowed. minimum elevation angle.

Due to the lower angles, SpaceX also addresses any concerns its rivals might have. He assured the Commission that the 10 degree elevation will result in less interference with OneWeb’s satellites since they operate at 45 degrees or higher. Moreover, he also intends with Kepler to build on the shared data.

Starlink recently opened up its service to mobile users in RVs, and as it struggles with excessive demand in some areas, the service has also started warning users of low speeds during peak hours.

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