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Why is Elon Musk launching thousands of satellites?

01.08.2022 10:00 AM
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Why is Elon Musk launching thousands of satellites?
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Why is Elon Musk launching thousands of satellites?

SpaceX billionaire Elon Musk has launched thousands of satellites. These satellites come within the framework of the Starlink project, which aims to provide high-speed Internet services from space, reaching remote areas on Earth. What is Starlink? The project aims to provide Internet services via a huge network of satellites. It is aimed at people who live in remote areas who do not have access to high speed internet. “There are people in the UK who fall into this category, but the majority are in places like Africa,” says Lucinda King, director of space projects at the University of Portsmouth. The Starlink satellites were placed in low Earth orbit to make communications between the satellites and Earth as quickly as possible. However, a large number of satellites are needed to provide complete coverage of the world. The Starlink project is believed to have included about 3,000 of them being deployed in space since 2018. How much does Starlink cost and who will use it? Compared to traditional internet providers, Starlink isn't cheap, costing customers $99 per month. The dish and router needed to connect to the satellite also cost $549. However, 96 per cent of households in the UK already have access to high-speed internet, as do 90 per cent of households in the European Union and the US. “Most of the developed world is already well connected,” says Professor Saeed Mushir, director of the Institute for Space Policy and Law at University College London. "They rely on a small share of the market to generate revenue," he adds. The company says it has 400,000 subscribers in the 36 countries it currently covers - mostly in North America, Europe and Australia. Next year, Starlink plans to expand its coverage further across Africa and South America, and into Asia.

 
 

Starlink satellites often appear in images as streaks of light obscuring stars and planets. How does Starlink help Ukraine? As they advanced into Ukraine, Russian forces shut down Ukrainian internet services and tried to block social media sites. Elon Musk made Starlink available in Ukraine right after the invasion. About 15,000 Starlink dishes and routers have been shipped to the country. It was also used on the battlefield. “Ukrainian forces use it to communicate – for example, between headquarters and forces in the field,” says Marina Myron, a defense studies researcher at King's College London. "Its signals cannot be jammed as normal radio signals can, and it only takes 15 minutes to set up the kit," she added. Is Starlink creating chaos in space? In addition to Starlink, competitors such as OneWeb and Visat, which also operate satellite Internet services, have put thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit. Counselor Saeed says this will lead to problems. It "makes the space less safe in terms of collisions," he adds. "Satellites can collide with other vehicles and cause fragments of debris, which in turn can cause more damage when flying at high speeds." Recently, there have been a number of impending errors related to the Starlink satellites, including close ones with the Chinese space station. "If there is a lot of fragmentation, it could make LEO unusable in the future," says Dr. King of the University of Portsmouth. We may not be able to get out of low Earth orbit into higher orbits, where our navigation and communications satellites are located.” Starlink satellites also create problems for astronomers. At sunrise and sunset it can be seen with the naked eye because the sun's rays are reflected on it. This can cause streaks to appear on telescope images, obscuring the view of stars and planets. Professor Said Chancellor says: “Astronomers saw the problems early on. They were the first to complain.”

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