Elon Musk’s first set of internet-beaming satellites created a flurry of excitement when launched into space in May of 2019. People began to wonder, “Where is Elon Musk’s satellites right now?” These 60 Starlink satellites, part of the SpaceX project, are orbiting our planet at an altitude of 550 kilometers and are intended to provide high-speed internet service to many parts of the world. Although these satellites have been tested with extensive trials since launch, they have yet to reach full operational capacity.
These are the first of an expected 11,943 satellites that Musk predicts will be launched by the mid-2020s. Currently, Musk’s satellites orbit Earth at a rate of seven and a half rounds per day and are visible to the naked eye. It has been reported that his fourth wave was visible for a few nights but has since passed. However, this wave is reported to number well over 400 satellites.
Field experts and astronomers have been reporting some teething problems with this new wave of satellites, such as the satellites being low orbit, too many of them, and their potential to cause radio interference. While some of these concerns are being addressed as the vessels move about closer to the end goal for the project, some experts worry that the sheer number and velocity of the satellites may cause unpredictable complications.
The main goal of the project remains the same and is remarkable. The SpaceX project, under Elon Musk’s lead, is seeking to provide online access to parts of the world not previously had internet access, even in the distant future. Experts predict that the total cost of launching, equipping, and deploying the satellites and the ground system will run into many billions of dollars and to inform and bring this to fruition over the next few years
The current satellites, although already orbiting the Earth, have not yet reached full operating capacity, but with the continual growth of the project, it is expected that we may see the first steps of the full operation in 2021. The project, once fully functional and up and running, will provide internet service from an estimated speed of roughly 1000 Mbps or higher.
Along with the predicted success of the project, there are a host of potential complications that can occur. Due to the magnitude of the project and large sums of money being spent, accidents or unseen hiccups can be monumental setbacks. It is therefore important to closely monitor the progress and behaviour of the satellites. Because of their very low orbit, collisions with rogue debris or other similar satellites can be common and potentially damaging.
Humans are so reliant on technological advancements that the probability of a malfunction of a satellite can be disastrous. Far reaching consequences can occur which can include immense economic damage, the cutting of services and the total failure of communications in some areas.
As this project is the first of its kind at such a grand scale, many experts are worried that an unforseen problem has not been addressed and can be disastrous to any expectations of success.
In order for the project to succeed, a set of technical requirements has to be met. One of the main requirements is for the satellites to communicate with the ground stations without issues. This is achieved by the inclusivity of the technologies involved in the network so that advancements can be made over the years. All components need to be updated so that newer technology can be incorporated and the original goals remain achievable.
On another hand, finding ways to reduce the cost of the project is also critical. To make this possible, the satellites need to be both durable and efficient. They should also have the ability to detect and respond to the environment around them in order to enable to the operation of the system.
To increase the resilience of the project and also reduce cost, strategic partnerships with other companies or newly established companies must be made. These partnerships can help expand the capabilities of the satellites, increase the available funds and expertise, ensuring the success of the project. If successful, these partnerships can potentially revolutionize not only how we use the internet, but also how we interact with the industries of telecommunications and IT.
For instance, partnerships can help maximize the use of the satellites and create more efficient ways of providing internet services. Through the connection of different parts of the world and providing satellite-based internet connections, remote areas lacking in traditional infrastructure will be opened up to much needed online access.
The success of the SpaceX project is one which has the potential to both reshape and revolutionize our society, with the benefits already being seen by many countries around the globe. But this innovation also carries within it, with it the potential to cause large scale negative environmental impacts. Through the launching of the satellites, the Earth’s atmosphere as well as the celestial environment can be altered and even disrupted.
The professionals overseeing the project have made considerations for the potential impact on our environment, such as limiting the amount of radiation emitted from the satellites, but the long-term effects are still a matter of speculation. Nevertheless, this shows that the potential for negative effects is taken into consideration by the experts.
There has been much speculation in regards to the feasibility of the project from the perspective of the conservational organisations, however there have been numerous objections due to the ethics and morality of allowing mass access to the internet. Objections have been made that through opening up parts of the world previously without internet access, this might lead to upheaval and disruption of the traditional lifestyles and cultural norms of these areas.
It is also likely that various forms of exploitation could become more accessible due to increased connectivity and this includes the sharing and spread of false information, which is already a global issue, as well as the allowing of large anti-social activities to occur, such as online gambling and fraud with the possibility of capital is being syphoned off.
Furthermore, live streaming can become more accessible, which could potentially lead to issues such as voyeurism, stalking, or even harassment, all if not regulated, could overwhelm society and destroy the future potential that the project is intended for.
The potential for this project is almost beyond the realm of the imagination. However, the large questions remain. Is it safe? Is it ethical? What environmental impacts could be caused and is it really feasible?
These are questions which require much more research and study before anything can be definitively stated, due to the immense cost of the project and the sheer revolutionary nature of the project itself.
As we move closer to the predicted 2021 launch of the project and the eventual unveiling of the project, it is important that the public remains informed and engaged in the progression of the project. Only then can we be sure that it will reach success and be beneficial to not only our lives but also those of future generations.