SpaceX Starlink satellite internet network early tests show fast speeds

SpaceX deploys 60 Starlink satellites in orbit.


SpaceX gave an update on early tests of its Starlink satellite internet network, which showed speeds capable of playing online video games and streaming movies.

Starlink is the ambitious plan by Elon Musk’s company to build an interconnected network of about 12,000 small satellites in low Earth orbit. To date, SpaceX has launched about 650 of its version 1.0 satellites and is currently building a system of ground stations and user terminals to connect consumers directly to its network.

The company confirmed during the webcast of its latest launch on Monday that employees have been testing Starlink’s latency and download speeds, key measures for an internet service provider. SpaceX senior certification engineer Kate Tice said that the initial results of those tests “have been good.”

“They show super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 [megabits] per second. That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once,” Tice said.

She acknowledged that the network is “very much a work in progress,” with SpaceX hoping to further “unlock the full capability” of the Starlink network as it continues to launch satellites. The company told the FCC in July that SpaceX is building 120 satellites per month, as well as thousands of the small terminals that consumers will use to connect to the network. SpaceX said that it has “invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Starlink to date.”

A Starlink user terminal, which would connect consumers to the company’s satellite internet service.


Space lasers test

Tice also said that the company recently conducted a test to see if it can connect two satellites in orbit with what SpaceX calls “space lasers.” Also known as intersatellite links, the space lasers would imporve the Starlink network by allowing it to exchange data in between the satellites in orbit, rather than beaming it back-and-forth to the ground. SpaceX tested two of the Starlink satellites in orbit that are equipped with the intersatellite links.

“With these space lasers the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data,” Tice said.

She added that, once SpaceX has “space lasers” working consistently throughout the network, “Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world.”

SpaceX plans to begin a public beta test of Starlink once the current private beta test concludes. The company plans to begin offering Starlink as a commercial service before the end of this year in the northern United States and southern Canada, with plans for “near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”

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