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Elon Musk tests space lasers for StarLink

27 November 2020
2 min.
Elon Musk tests space lasers for StarLink

Spacecraft testing

SpaceX has already launched hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit, and has begun providing Internet services in test mode in the north of the US and south of Canada. Early tests showed speeds of around 150 Mbps for downloading and 15 Mbps for downloading. SpaceX is expanding its testing and has recently attracted thousands of additional beta testers.

One of the most pressing issues is traffic restrictions. The Comcast provider has been criticized for imposing traffic limits on millions of customers in the northeastern US for 1.2 Tbytes per month per user. Will Starlink impose similar traffic limits and if so, which limits? The good news is that there are no such restrictions in Starlink's beta testing at this time. SpaceX would like to maintain the same approach in the future, but does not say that traffic restrictions are completely eliminated.

Another problem is the delays associated with data transfer from and back to space. However, SpaceX is confident that this will not be a problem thanks to space lasers.

SpaceX said: "light in a vacuum is higher than fibre optics, so space lasers have an exciting potential for low latency channels. They will also allow us to serve users where satellites cannot see the ground antennas of the airlock".

A SpaceX engineer also said that earlier this year the team conducted exciting tests using prototypes of space lasers on two Starlink satellites. They were able to transmit gigabytes of data per second. The challenge, however, is to reduce the cost of space lasers and also to produce large quantities while doing so quickly.

Another interesting issue is related to mobility. One user asked if he would be able to take his equipment with him when he goes to his dacha out of town or on holiday in the future.

A SpaceX engineer replied: "Mobility options, including moving Starlink to other service addresses (or to places where there are no addresses at all) will be available as soon as we can expand our coverage by launching more satellites and deploying new equipment and software".

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