What is the impact of the “Starlink” program on the communications and Internet industries?

On May 24, 2019, SpaceX launched 60 “Starlink” satellites in a one-arrow multi-satellite launch, drawing widespread attention from the global high-tech industry. Musk’s SpaceX proposed the “Starlink” plan in 2015, which is expected to complete the deployment of satellite networks by 2025, and will provide low-latency, high-bandwidth network broadband services of at least 1Gbps/sec and up to 23Gbps/sec to end users worldwide. The implementation of the “Starlink” plan may have an impact on a number of industries, including telecommunications and the Internet, and will intensify competition for spectrum resources and increase the potential for information security, which must be highly alert and actively carry out trend research and necessary responses.

The impact of “Starlink” plan on communication and Internet industry.

First, the four characteristics of the “Starlink” low-orbit satellite Internet. “Starlink” plan is huge, Musk’s “Starlink” plan to launch 11,927 satellites to the Earth’s near orbit, which is about six times the number of satellites currently in orbit, including 4,409 satellites at an altitude of 550 km orbital surface, and 7,518 satellites at an altitude of 340 km orbital surface. There are 7,518 satellites in orbital plane at 340 km altitude. Each Starlink satellite weighs about 227 kg and is powered by a Krypton Hall thruster and equipped with a star-sensitive high-precision navigation system. “The ultimate goal is to deploy a global network of interconnected air, space and ground satellites to provide low-latency, high-bandwidth, broad-coverage or full-coverage broadband network services to users around the world.

High technical difficulty of rocket recovery and one-arrow-multi-star. Recovery technology is an important trend in the development of launch vehicle technology, which can be generally divided into two categories: partially recoverable and fully recoverable. At present, only China and the United States have mastered partial rocket recovery technology, and fully recoverable technology has not yet been realized. One-arrow-multi-satellite requires good control of the rocket’s attitude, the orbit of each satellite, radio interference between multiple satellites and other issues. Each satellite needs to be tailored to the best separation route and separation time, in accordance with the predetermined procedures for a smooth “exit” and not to rub against each other. In the process of implementing the “Starlink” program, Musk has been committed to using recoverable rocket technology to reduce the cost of satellite launches. The first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle used for this launch is the recoverable part of the third launch.

Low orbit satellite communications for special terrain, according to the orbital flight altitude, satellites can be divided into low orbit satellites (200-2000km), medium orbit satellites (2000-20000km) and high orbit satellites (more than 20000km). Traditional communication satellites are generally deployed in orbit about 36,000 km above the earth, with long signal round-trip time and relatively obvious delay. The penetration of fiber optic broadband in rural, mountainous, desert and island areas is not high, and the delay often occurs when providing Internet access to remote areas, which cannot meet the application scenarios requiring low latency such as real-time communication and online games. Compared with the existing medium- and high-orbit communication satellites, the propagation distance of low-orbit satellite communication is short and the latency is small. The satellites of “Starlink” are deployed in near-Earth orbit, which can reduce the latency to 20 milliseconds and reach the level of home fiber access network.

The potential commercial value of satellite Internet is high. Since most of the network connections come from fiber optic cables on land and under the sea, about half of the world’s population has not yet enjoyed the convenience of the Internet, and the market development potential is huge. In this context, domestic and foreign Internet giants have laid out satellite Internet. The U.S. company Amazon proposed the “Kuiper Project”, which plans to send 3,236 satellites into near-Earth orbit. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation plans to set up “Hong Yan” global satellite communication constellation system, 360 has invested in San Francisco’s CubeSat company Spire, Lianshang Network has announced its “Lianshang Swarm” satellite launch plan, Alibaba, Douyu, Huami and other companies have launched their own satellite internet system, Alibaba, Douyu, Huami and other companies have launched title satellites to enter the commercial satellite field. Musk predicts that the potential broadband network revenue from the “Starlink” program will reach $30 billion per year.

There are still many problems with the “Starlink” program itself. From the technical point of view, the orbit of the constellation laying, the communication load between the star and the ground, the communication interference between the satellites, as well as ground signal interference blockage, the unified networking protocols of the information network between heaven and earth, and a large number of problems still need to be overcome and solved. From the viewpoint of the feasibility of global networking, large-scale satellite launches and continuous ground station construction require permission and cooperation from the host country, and the provision of global coverage of satellite Internet services is therefore a long and difficult road.

Other implications of the “Starlink” program, the maturity of rocket recovery technology and the large-scale application of satellites will inevitably trigger a new wave of small satellite research and development and manufacturing boom, the integration of military and civilian applications of satellite resources will be further accelerated, and the commercial space industry in the satellite communications industry will enter a period of rapid development. But at the same time it may also bring a series of negative effects, such as, near-infrared astronomical observation, earth weather monitoring, geological exploration and remote sensing to bring interference, excessive “space congestion” and “space junk” intensive low-altitude satellite fleet is used for military purposes This will lead to information security and national security issues, etc.

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