Global Satellite Internet Service

The first launch of a serious number of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network is scheduled to go up in less than a week. Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX CEO, has said that they will test launch “dozens” of the spacecraft around May 15th.

Ponder the implications with me for a minute.

Many (as in more than three) thousand satellites, passing overhead constantly, serving cheap Internet access worldwide. Iridium, O3b, One Web, TelSat, and now SpaceX Starlink all plan to provide this type of Internet access.

The old way to do satellite relay communications has always been to place a spacecraft a little over 22 thousand miles up, where the time it takes the satellite to circle the Earth is exactly one day. The effect, if orbiting over the equator, is that it quite literally hovers in one spot. Then you point a hot tub size communications dish at that specific spot to receive the signal. That altitude means that one ginormous spacecraft can serve the needs of a very large geographical area, but the equatorial orbit means that Northern and Southern areas of the planet have a more difficult time getting a line of sight to the spacecraft to point a dish at, especially in mountainous areas.

I’m looking to buy a home in a (somewhat) remote area soon. My wife asked me, “What about Internet?” I said, “No problem.” I wasn’t thinking about that traditional Geostatic, equatorial, point your dish satellites when I said that though. I told her about Iridium and Starlink and how they work and even my non-computer geek wife thought it was cool. That says a lot.

This new way is to mob the sky, shotgun style, with gazillions of smaller satellites that zoom overhead day and night at much, much lower orbits…say 4 to 6 hundred miles. Coverage is achieved by the sheer number of spacecraft, in diverse orbits, so that there is always at least one visible to every place on Earth all the time. No dish is necessary because the spacecraft are so close and would be impractical anyway because these fast-moving targets could be anywhere in the visible sky any time.

No matter where someone resides in the world, they can connect to the Internet with small, cheap, highly portable antennae. They can learn stuff, stream audio and video, send Tweets about things happening in their part of the world, get on Amazon and buy stuff (like my books…nudge), all at faster online speeds and cheaper prices than ever before. We have left the Information Age and will now enter the Global Connectivity Age where geography becomes meaningless and anything anyone wants to buy or sell is available at and from every corner of the planet. Smart kids with an interest in anything can learn about it hot online and build their destinies whether they live in a palace or a box (ok, a box with a phone and electricity and $20 a month to spend…go with me here).

The staggering implications to government and culture from the mixing together of so many ideas, over yet undiscovered social media venues, that will arise from such an immense viewership explode the imagination.

Things are about to get very interesting.

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~ by Bill Housley on May 12, 2019.

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