Artist’s illustration of Starlink’s satellites communicating with lasers
By Ameya Paleja,
published by Interesting Engineering, 3 October 2023
Data transfers between satellites in the constellation can now reach speeds of 100 Gbps without involving ground stations.
Starlink’s Mini V2 satellites
Starlink first launched satellites with laser-based communication capabilities way back in 2021. The first batch of satellites was launched to polar orbit and provided internet services over Alaska, where setting up ground stations was challenging.
Ground stations are intermediaries between Startlink’s satellites and data centers where information is stored. While these remain critical in ensuring that Starlink can connect you to the internet, the service has been looking for ways to reduce data transfers between satellites and ground stations – this is where laser-based communication comes in.
Called Optical Intersatellite Links, these space lasers allow satellites within the constellation to communicate with each other. Since this method bypasses the constant communication between the ground station and satellites, it helps improve internet speeds for customers and reduces the latency of responses.
Our next generation Starlink optical space lasers (pew pew!) were launched to orbit on Monday 🛰️🌎 pic.twitter.com/pRKlosl4vx— Starlink (@Starlink) September 26, 2023
According to Starlink’s tweet, its constellation will be equipped with more than 8,000 such lasers that enable inter-satellite communication with pinpoint accuracy even as they are thousands of miles apart. Data transfers on each such laser link can be conducted at speeds of 100 Gbps.
The future ahead
Starlink is looking to increase the applications of its space-based internet services to areas such as the maritime and aviation industries. With an increasing number of satellites in its constellation, it is confident that it can meet the demands of providing global coverage required by these industries.
Apart from business customers, Starlink may also want to keep its existing base of individual customers happy as competition in the sector has increased. While Amazon’s Kuiper project that was envisioned alongside Starlink failed to take off, another potential rival, OneWeb, has completed setting up its constellation and is expected to begin offering services soon.
Even as surveys suggest that Starlink’s internet services are faster than broadband connections in most countries where it operates, the service would be keen to put sufficient distance between itself and new entrants in the sector and stay ahead. A higher number of satellites in orbit will also ensure that Starlink’s network remains more reliable, even as more users continue to sign up for its services around the globe.
See: Original Article