SpaceX is developing a low latency, broadband internet system to meet the needs of consumers across the globe. Enabled by a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites, Starlink will provide fast, reliable internet to populations with little or no connectivity, including those in rural communities and places where existing services are too expensive or unreliable.
Starlink is targeted to offer service in the Northern U.S. and Canadian latitudes after six launches, rapidly expanding to global coverage of the populated world after an expected 24 launches. SpaceX is targeting two to six Starlink launches by the end of this year.
Each satellite weighs approximately 227kg and features a compact, flat-panel design that minimizes volume, allowing for a dense launch stack to take full advantage of the launch capabilities of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.
With 4 powerful phased array antennas on each satellite, an enormous amount of throughput can be placed and redirected in a short time, for an order of magnitude lower cost.
Starlink satellites feature a single solar array, significantly simplifying the system; solar cells are standardized, and easy to integrate into the manufacturing process.
Starlink satellites are equipped with efficient ion thrusters powered by krypton that enable the satellites to orbit raise, maneuver in space, and deorbit at the end of their useful life. Starlink is the first krypton propelled spacecraft ever flown.
Custom-built in-house navigation sensors tell each satellite its attitude, which helps enable precision placement of broadband throughput.
Starlink satellites utilize inputs from the Department of Defense’s debris tracking system to autonomously perform maneuvers to avoid collisions with space debris and other spacecraft. This capability reduces human error, allowing for a more reliable approach to collision avoidance.
Starlink is on the leading edge of on-orbit debris mitigation, meeting or exceeding all regulatory and industry standards.
At end of life, the satellites will utilize their on-board propulsion system to deorbit over the course of a few months. In the unlikely event the propulsion system becomes inoperable, the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere within 1-5 years, significantly less than the hundreds or thousands of years required at higher altitudes.