Laser crosslinks are added by SpaceX to the polar Starlink satellites

Adam

Laser crosslinks are fitted with the very first Starlink satellites to be deployed into polar orbit, a capability which the company expects to extend next year to the other satellites. On its January 24 Transporter-1 dedicated rideshare mission, SpaceX featured 10 Starlink satellites. Since securing the Federal Communications Commission contract to do so on January 8, these spacecraft are the first of the Starlink constellation that SpaceX has launched to polar orbit. Elon Musk, founder as well as chief executive officer of SpaceX, stated in tweets after the deployment that such satellites were fitted with laser intersatellite connections. “These have laser communications between the satellites as well, so no ground stations over the poles are required,” he added, reacting to a single tweet about the deployment.

Intersatellite links enable satellites, maybe in the same orbital plane or even a neighboring plane, to pass communications from one satellite to another. These links permit operators to decrease the ground stations’ number, as the ground station no longer has to have the same satellite footprint as the user terminals and expand coverage to the remote areas where the ground stations are not accessible. As the hop count between satellites as well as ground stations is limited, they will also minimize latency. On other Starlink satellites, SpaceX has evaluated intersatellite links, but they are not commonly used.

The firm said it assessed “space lasers” between two satellites throughout the September 2020 live stream of the Starlink mission, transmitting hundreds of gigabytes of data. “Starlink will be among the fastest choices available for transferring data around the planet when these space lasers are widely implemented,” the firm stated at the moment. Musk noted that next year, SpaceX would roll out intersatellite laser connections on other Starlink satellites in a tweet. “All the sats deployed next year are going to have laser connections.  This year, it is only our polar sats which are going to have lasers & they’re v0.9,” he stated.

When the FCC approved the polar launch of Starlink satellites, the FCC decided in its decision that it’s in the public benefit to enable SpaceX to deploy the 10 Starlink satellites into the polar orbits. The order stated, “We believe that partial granting of ten satellites would promote the continued production and evaluation of SpaceX’s broadband service in the high-latitude geographical areas in the near term before further action is taken to resolve arguments in the record concerning both the granting of the complete modification and the complete subset of the polar orbit satellites.”

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