Tag Archives: Starlink

Elon Musk: Starlink terminal is now active in Ukraine

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to rage on, the war is being fought on multiple fronts — and one of these fronts is the internet. Russian forces have severely disrupted internet functionality in Ukraine, and there are legitimate concerns about the country (or large parts of the country) being essentially severed from the internet.

In desperation, Ukrainian First Vice Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov tweeted to Elon Musk for help with his Starlink fleet.

Remarkably, it worked. Within hours, Musk replied: “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.”

Fedorov tweeted his thanks to the billionaire, with the country’s official Twitter account @Ukraine also acknowledging Musk’s actions, tweeting “Thanx [sic], appreciate it”.

While costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide a much-needed internet source for people who live in remote, rural, or disrupted areas. The technology could also serve as a backup in the case of a natural or man-made disaster — which is exactly the case in Ukraine right now.

Starlink satellites are able to provide broadband Internet connections from space, and having the satellites deployed above Ukraine means parts of the country may enjoy internet connectivity without the risk of Russian interference.

Yes, but

This does not mean Starlink internet is live for all of Ukraine. The move can only provide internet to those with Starlink’s special receivers — these are the “terminals” Musk was referring to.

We could not verify how many such terminals are in Ukraine right now or how many more are “en route”. This remains a key question, and it is unclear whether Starlink can make a significant amount of terminals available to Ukraine on such short notice.

Without too many terminals, this is quite possibly a symbolic move rather than one that will make a major difference, but with Ukrainians with their backs against the wall, it could at least make a difference for some people.

Meanwhile, the situation of embattled Ukraine remains critical, and having Internet connectivity and ensuring vital communication is quite possibly crucial for the fate of the country.

SpaceX launch aborted and postponed for today. You can still watch it live

One Falcon 9 rocket that was shuttling Starlink satellites into orbit for SpaceX has encountered problems before launch on Sunday night. The launch was aborted just 90 seconds away from taking off.

A batch of 60 Starlink satellites coming close to being deployed into orbit aboard a Falcon 9. Image credits Official SpaceX Photos.

The veteran rocket was scheduled to take 60 new Starlink satellites to orbit, helping the company establish its fleet of internet-providing orbiters. Still, not everything went according to plan and the launch was postponed to later today, March 1st.

Automatically aborted

“Overall, the vehicle and payload are healthy and remain in good health,” SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran explained during live launch commentary. “The next launch opportunity is tomorrow, March 1, at 8:15 Eastern time.”

Safety systems aboard the Falcon 9 rocket activated just 90 seconds before the scheduled launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pad 39A. While nothing went really wrong, which would probably involve an explosion, this event doesn’t bode very well for SpaceX.

This was the latest in a series of delays for this particular mission (Starlink 17). It was originally slated for earlier in February but delayed due to poor weather and hardware issues. There are already around 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, which will work together to deliver high-speed internet coverage around the world, particularly to remote areas.

Today’s launch will be SpaceX’s 20th Starlink mission, and their sixth launch of 2021. The same rocket will be used as yesterday, a tried and tested veteran whose first-stage booster has launched off seven times to date — five times for Starlink, and once each to launch the Iridium-8 and Telstar 18 Vantage satellites.

If everything goes well this time, the rocket will touch back down on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s current Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets are designed to fly 10 missions before replacement — so its first-stage booster is nearing the end of its service life.

According to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of good weather for a SpaceX launch on Monday night. Hopefully that forecast proves to be right so we can watch the rocket blast off on SpaceX’s live stream

Early SpaceX Starlink users claim they’re ‘streaming 4K with zero buffering’

Starlink phase-array dish and WiFi router. Credit: Reddit/Tesmanian.

Serial entrepreneur Elon Musk has his mind set on enveloping the planet with thousands of low-orbiting satellites that can beam high-speed internet to any location, no matter how remote it may be. It’s an extremely ambitious plan rife with many challenges but early results are already very promising, according to beta testers of the broadband internet service known as Starlink.

There are at least 900 Starlink satellites currently in orbit, deployed over 14 launches of SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The company wants to launch dozens of such satellites every two weeks until the fleet numbers 12,000 or up to 42,000. When completed in mid-2027, the network ought to support half a million users simultaneously with a 100 megabit-per-second internet speed.

Animation of the Starlink satellite constellation in operation once it becomes fully operational by mid-2027.

Until that lofty goal is reached, Starlink is available to a few lucky beta testers who are part of the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test program. Some have shared their satellite internet performance on reddit and twitter, with pretty good results, according to reports by Tesmanian.

“As you can see from the title, we are trying to lower your initial expectations,” SpaceX wrote in a statement sent to its beta testers, “Expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s [megabits per second] and latency from 20ms to 40ms [milliseconds] over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.”

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the email continued. “For latency, we expect to achieve 16ms to 19ms by summer 2021.”

Seems like the email was on point. Writing on Twitter, Kenneth Auchenberg, one of Starlink beta testers, shared his experience with Starlink, claiming he was able to stream videos at “1440p and 4K with zero buffering on YouTube”. A screenshot of a speed test attached to the same posts shows that Auchenberg’s connection experienced a latency speed of 38 milliseconds (ms), a download speed of 134 megabits per second (Mbps), and an upload of 14.8 Mbps. Elon Musk himself later replied that “latency will improve significantly soon.”

Starlink internet users don’t connect to the satellite network directly. Instead, the signal is first sent to ground stations, which then distribute the connection to end-users through a 19-inch phased-array dish called “Dishy McFlatface”. Besides the antenna, the Starlink Kit also includes a Wi-Fi router and a mounting tripod for the dish.

Starlink Kit. Credit: Reddit user Akumzy.
Credit: Reddit user Rawku2.

Having the ability to setup a wireless internet connection virtually anywhere in the world is extremely appealing. But not everyone is welcoming the thousands of upcoming satellites. Astronomers, for instance, are worried that glare from this megaconstellation of sallites will ruin sensitive telescope observations. Other space companies and satellites operators are worried that the crowding of low-orbit with internet satellites will make it increasingly difficult to find a clear path through which to launch their own rockets.

Starlink satellite train zooming across the sky. Credit: SatTrackCam Leiden.

The Starlink Kit will initially cost $500, with a later target of $200 per terminal, while the monthly broadband service fee is priced at $99. If you want to learn more about Starlink and receive notifications about when the service will be available in your area, visit their website.