According to the plan, SpaceX plans to use 5,250 satellites required for networking in orbit in five years. In February of this year, SpaceX used the Falcon 9 rocket to bring two Starlink satellites into orbit. If the test is successful, SpaceX will officially launch satellites in batches starting in 2019.
Once 800 satellites are in the first place, SpaceX plans to offer limited satellite Internet services in 2020-2021.
Figure 1: Photographs taken before SpaceX's first two Starlink prototype satellites, showing a very practical body and technologically advanced components.
There have been many recent speculations that SpaceX's Starlink satellite network plan may have experienced major failures in on-orbit hardware. However, Yulveson expressed considerable confidence in SpaceX's achievements to date in the Starlink project. He said: "I personally think that SpaceX has Ku and Ka-band phased arrays, which can completely create global low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband, and Tintin A and Tintin B perform very well."
SpaceX's accumulated experience in phased array antennas has undoubtedly contributed greatly to the company's Starlink network plan. The company is just one of several companies actively pursuing the low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband market, and competition in this area is increasingly fierce. Fundamentally, due to the simplicity and potential technical advantages of phased array antenna technology, it will eventually take over almost all multipurpose track communications.
Figure 2: Patent diagram showing the various sub-assemblies of a sandwich phased array antenna, which consists of multiple printed circuit boards
Phased array antennas are named because they have no moving parts, but instead move the physical antenna or tilt the dedicated "beam". The phased array actively uses signal interference to directly and adjust the line of sight communication beam in a very precise shape. The technology is not yet mature, but its pure simplicity and reliability do not require moving parts, helping to eliminate potential failures and inherent physical limitations in current antenna technology. Without a phased array, low-Earth orbit communication satellites would be difficult to accurately and reliably track terrestrial base stations and gateways while still operating for several kilometers per second.
Large communication satellites in the geostationary orbit have no such problem. Because they have a fixed position relative to the ground target (hence the name "Earth Synchronization"), designers and manufacturers have learned to accurately simulate the on-orbit antenna of each satellite to clearly prioritize specific areas on the ground. This process often involves prior identification of markets that have the highest or highest demand for satellite communications, while avoiding wasting coverage in areas where satellite communications are not required. However, once the antenna is transmitted, its beam is almost permanently set. If the market changes, the satellite simply cannot adapt.
On the other hand, phased array antennas can almost completely change the position of their beam pointing, the bandwidth of a particular location, and the ability to accurately track moving targets. Therefore, satellites with phased array antennas are like "jacks" for communication in a variety of industries, providing high-bandwidth connectivity to fixed user terminals, large ground base stations, and vehicles that use the same antenna array.
If SpaceX can refine these designs, they will be the only company in the world that can offer these services on the track. Other satellite operators, such as Iridium, are struggling to build and launch low-bandwidth phased arrays, but they have yet to try to do so on broadband Internet with the best bandwidth or on a network of hundreds of satellites. If Yulvisson's words are credible, SpaceX's first foray into the field of dedicated communications satellites and dedicated hardware design and manufacturing is a major success.