Love ’em or hate ’em, the 51 Starlink satellites launched this week took a step forward toward the goal of providing global broadband coverage for high-speed internet access, particularly for people across the world in rural and remote areas. On Monday, September 13, 2021, SpaceX launched its first whole batch of laser-equipped Starlinks. These SpaceX lasers are expected to improve how the satellite network relays broadband signals around the world. Ground stations are costly and not without geographical and political constraints on where they can be positioned on Earth.
These new inter-satellite SpaceX lasers will enable the network to operate with fewer ground stations. They’ll route data around the constellation (between satellites), rather than between Earth and space. Fewer “hops” between the ground and orbit reduces the time it takes for a signal to travel between destinations. The goal is to provide Starlink patrons with improved latency. That improvement should translate to faster internet speeds.
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Kate Tice, Starlink’s senior reliability engineer, said in 2020 – and as the Starlink team confirmed in a letter to Beta users as recently as summer 2021: