When Elon Musk said that Starlink is built to provide high-speed internet connectivity to everyone in the world, he wasn’t joking. The satellite internet system Starlink recently reached a significant milestone in this respect when SpaceX announced that it is now present on all seven continents, including Antarctica.
Just a few years ago, the notion of Starlink offering high-speed internet connectivity to Antarctica seemed improbable. However, owing to Starlink’s space laser network, which eliminates the need for ground stations, it is now able to provide an internet connection to incredibly distant places like Antarctica, according to a tweet from SpaceX.
Starlink is now on all seven continents! In such a remote location like Antarctica, this capability is enabled by Starlink’s space laser network https://t.co/c9HX0xrX0u
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 14, 2022
The National Science Foundation lauded Starlink and said that because of the satellite internet connection, scientists in Antarctica are “over the moon.” Additionally, the McMurdo Station, a US Antarctic research facility on Ross Island’s southern point, had the Starlink terminal installed, according to the NSF.
NSF-funded USAP researchers in Antarctica are ecstatic! In order to increase bandwidth and connection for research support, Starlink is testing polar service with a newly installed user terminal at McMurdo Station, according to a tweet from the NSF.
NSF-supported USAP scientists in #Antarctica are over the moon! Starlink is testing polar service with a newly deployed user terminal at McMurdo Station, increasing bandwidth and connectivity for science support. pic.twitter.com/c3kLGk8XBV
— National Science Foundation (@NSF) September 14, 2022
Being a key center for geology and climate study, among other things, McMurdo already had a respectable satellite uplink via a conventional operator. However, as you would expect, there is tremendous competition for the little bandwidth available. A Starlink terminal will hopefully at least partially solve such problems.
But it’s not exactly the conventional configuration. This capacity is made possible via Starlink’s space laser network, according to SpaceX, “at such a distant area as Antarctica.”
SpaceX Starlink Satellites use Space-lasers
As long as you can maintain the laser pointing in the appropriate direction, space lasers are amazing because they allow for fast communications between faraway spacecraft. In order to eventually enable Starlink satellites to create a kind of mesh network that can connect even remote areas like Antarctica and the middle of the ocean to the internet, SpaceX has been conducting limited tests of this technology.
Obviously, it is what satellites are designed to accomplish, but you can do it anywhere. Consider this: where would a signal that you send to a satellite in low Earth orbit over Antarctica be sent next? It’s not like Antarctica’s other regions have excellent internet. In order for the signal to be transmitted to a ground station that is online, it must be sent upwards toward the rest of the planet. It then returns along the same route.
Although it may seem a little complicated, the network design by its nature is very complex.
Future Starlink satellite iterations will add additional laser connections, making the network more dependable and speedy overall. And NASA, which had the technology decades before SpaceX, is looking into it as a method to provide the Artemis mission with high-speed internet. Neither SpaceX nor NASA are the first or only to use space lasers for communication.