Starlink: A Review And Some Hacks

I could probably be described as a SpaceX enthusiast. I catch their launches when I can, and I’ve watched the development of Starship with great interest. But the side-effect of SpaceX’s reusable launch system is that getting to space has become a lot cheaper. Having excess launch capacity means that space projects that were previously infeasible become suddenly at least plausible. One of those is Starlink.

Starlink is SpaceX’s satellite Internet service. Wireless and cellular internet have helped in some places, but if you really live out in the sticks, satellite internet is your only option. And while satellite Internet isn’t exactly new, Starlink is a bit different. Hughesnet, another provider, has a handful of satellites in geostationary orbit, which is about 22,000 miles above the earth. To quote Grace Hopper, holding a nearly foot-long length of wire representing a nanosecond, “Between here and the satellite, there are a very large number nanoseconds.”

SpaceX opted to do something a bit different. In what seemed like an insane pipe dream at the time, they planned to launch a satellite constellation of 12,000 birds, some of them flying as low as 214 mile altitude. The downside of flying so low is that they won’t stay in orbit as long, but SpaceX is launching them significantly faster than they’re coming down. So far, nearly 1,600 Starlink satellites are in orbit, in a criss-crossing pattern at 342 miles (550 km) up.

This hundred-fold difference in altitude matters. A Hughesnet connection has a minimum theoretical latency of 480 ms, and in reality runs closer to 600 ms. Starlink predicts a theoretical minimum of under 10 ms, though real-world performance isn’t quite that low yet. In the few weeks I’ve had the service, ping times have fallen from mid-60s down to 20s and 30s. The way Starlink works right now, data goes up to the closest satellite and directly back to the connected ground station. The long-term plan is to allow the satellites to talk directly to each other over laser links, skipping over the ground stations. Since the speed of light is higher in a vacuum than in a fiber-optic cable, the fully deployed system could potentially have lower latency than even fiber Internet, depending on the location of the endpoint and how many hops need to be made.

I got a Starlink setup, and have been trying out the beta service. Here’s my experience, and a bonus hack to boot.

The Hardware

In the box, you get a router, a PoE injector, a simple tripod, and “Dishy McFlatface” — the innovative satellite dish with a permanently attached 100-ft Ethernet cable. The router itself is uninteresting, and has an initial setup page to configure the WiFi, and no further configurations. Of great interest to me, however, is the fact that the router reports itself to be an OpenWRT device. Taking the case apart was quite a pain, as the seams are tight, and the clips are recessed a bit. Once you’ve made it in, however, there is a header that is likely a serial port.

The PoE brick is very interesting. It has two outputs. One supplies the router low power, but the other port supplies the satellite dish with 56 V at 1.6 A x 2. For those following along at home, that’s just under 180 watts of power down a Cat5e cable. I’ve not yet found any other PoE implementations that push that much power, so it seems that we’re limited to using the supplied power supply for Dishy.

The dish itself is motorized and automatic. There’s none of the fiddly manual pointing that other dishes require. Dishy determines its location and orientation on boot, and automatically points itself in the proper direction. From there, the phased array antenna steers the beam to precisely target the overflying satellites.

The biggest issue to wrestle with is avoiding obstructions. Dishy needs a clear view of the sky, and the EHF frequency in use is very sensitive to physical barriers. Tree leaves are enough to completely block the signal. Because the system talks to satellites that are continually moving, the window of sky that needs to be clear is quite wide. Some optimizations have been added recently to be more fault tolerant of obstructions, like an automated fail-over to a secondary satellite when the preferred endpoint is unavailable. The system may eventually be robust enough to work well with obstructions, but for now, obstructions still means service interruptions, so setting the dish in the open is critical.

The Real World Performance

It’s not Gigabit fiber, but I’m regularly getting 200 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up. Ping times are low enough that latency isn’t a noticeable problem.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any problems. There are three main annoyances. The first is the drop-outs. According to the built-in statistics page, gaps in the satellite coverage has resulted in five minutes of downtime over the last 24 hours, with an additional two minutes of miscellaneous downtime: two nines.

It doesn’t sound like much, but these drop-outs are spread out over a few seconds here and there, and it is irritating. A second problem, ironically, is updates. During the beta period, updates are automatically installed, resulting in unpredictable disconnects.

The last irritation to mention is that IPv4 connectivity is provided using Carrier Grade NAT (CGNAT). I’m currently assigned 100.82.35.212, which is part of the address space specifically set aside for CGNAT. The important bit is that it’s not a routable address. I wondered if Starlink would route between these addresses, from one Starlink connection to another, but in my testing those packets were blocked.

— google.com ping statistics —
100 packets transmitted, 100 received, 0% packet loss, time 99130ms
rtt min/avg/max/mdev = 17.801/27.748/44.228/5.769 ms

Still, ping times are getting better and dropouts are getting fewer and further between as more satellites are launched. The firmware updates will likely be more controllable once the Beta period is over. And while Starlink doesn’t hand out a routable IPv4, it does assign an IPv6 prefix, if you have a router that supports it. They don’t yet support handing out static IPv4 addresses or IPv6 prefixes, but it sounds like this is a feature they plan to eventually support.

Speaking of eventual support, you should know that Starlink is geolocked. They’ve divided the world into cells approximately 15 miles across, and they’re turning on support for them one at a time. You register for Starlink at your home address, and your Dishy is assigned to the associated cell. You can pick up and move, but if you go outside that cell, your connection won’t work. For now, all it takes is a change of your service address to get things working again. Elon has publicly committed to making it fully mobile, up to and including staying connected while in motion.

Hacks

So what kind of Hackaday review would this be without some clever hack to make Starlink more useful? My existing cable internet is actually pretty decent: the speeds are good, and the latency is quite low. The biggest annoyance is that it was IPv4 only. Starlink has great speed, slightly worse latency, and no routable IPv4 addresses, only IPv6. Oddly enough that makes it the perfect compliment to cable.

The interesting thing about having IPv4 and IPv6 on the same network is that the addressing and routing are completely separate from each other. Or to put it another way, there’s no reason that your IPv4 gateway has to be the same device as your IPv6 gateway.

To achieve this, I plugged Dishy in to my existing OpenWRT router as a second WAN device. I had to enable an IPv4 DHCP interface for IPv6 DHCP to work, and I noticed an option in the OpenWRT interface: “Use default gateway. If unchecked, no default route is configured.” That setting, and the couple of other switches to turn IPv6 support back on, and I suddenly had IPv4 internet provided by my cable company, and IPv6 provided by Starlink.

I don’t know if you’ve ever looked into balancing your network across two internet connections, but it’s a decidedly non-trivial problem. Doing a fail-over is easy by comparison — you simply detect when one connection is down, and make sure your default route goes through the other one. Trying to use both at once is harder, because the router has to track connections, and keep the different connections going down the right pipes. Complex web services can consist of multiple connections, and there can be problems if the service sees you coming from different IPs. By splitting IPv4 and IPv6, you get balancing for free because only some services are IPv6 enabled. You also get limited failover because much of the internet is built to try IPv6, and fall back to IPv4.

A mysterious 5 pin header
Is that a Serial Port?

As I mentioned it in the beginning, there is what looks like a test point in the router, with a missing SMD resistor. It’s very likely that there is a serial port to be found here. Hopefully we’ll see a future hack where we can add the resistor and header, and get into the router. If you recognize exactly what connector fits there, let us know.

One more DIY trick you should know is that the supplied cable is a Cat5e outdoor rated FTP (Foil Twisted Pair) cable, with 24 AWG conductors. That’s pretty standard stuff for outdoors rated Ethernet.

What does this mean? You can make a portable installation by simply cutting the 100 ft cable down to a convenient length, and terminating it yourself. Run either the original cable, or another outdoor rated cable, and throw a grounded jack on the end. Put it in a waterproof enclosure, and you now have a portable solution. Ready to hit the road? Just unplug Dishy and you’re ready to go, as long as you stay within your cell.  It’s not perfect yet, but Starlink is getting better as time goes by. From my perspective, at least, the future is bright. Now all I need is to build a cabin somewhere in the mountains, and my digitally connected hideaway dreams will be realized.

121 thoughts on “Starlink: A Review And Some Hacks

    1. Jonathan, I don’t have such a sophisticated hack as trying to balance IPv6/IPv4 connections as local internet access sux where I’m located – or do I feel comfortable cutting down the ant lead yet (although I’d like to move ant in cell to my airport hangar and see where limits are?). But I did get frustrated with the wimpy little tripod mount and to clear obstructions had a machinist friend design an alternate Starlink Pipe Adapter mount for Dishy McFlatface. I’ve got it listed on ebay, but no takers yet. The roughly constructed prototype is holding up well in windy desert environment and I even had a big dust devil rip up other things on the property next to mount and it stayed put. Greg

      1. Based on the V1 teardown, I think the wind warnings are half so Dishy doesn’t become windblown debris, and half because the aiming motors looked like piddly little DC motors that would have a short lifespan of battling wind regularly.

  1. Is anyone else shocked by the power consumption of this setup? That 180 watts is potentially a pretty big hit to the electric bill. I hope that’s absolute worst-case and not the average use.

    1. Don’t have Starling, but my suspicion is that the 180w are necessary for dish alignment motors. If the dish is mounted permanently, you might not see that amount of draw after initial boot.

    2. Honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it’s drawing close to 100W while maxing out the upload. The link budget (power needed for a given SNR at a given bandwidth) has all sorts of factors different from what I’m used to BUT for a 5mbps upload to geostationary we’d typically use a 20W (rf) BUC which pulls ~100W (DC), on a 1.8M dish. It’s all down to distance, antenna gain, encoding, frequency, etc. though so who knows. I’d be REALLY surprised if they got things below 50W dc though, given there’s gotta be some inefficiencies in that beam-steering setup compared to a traditional reflector + feed horn.

      1. 180 is the maximum the power supply is rated for. I think that gets hit mainly when Dishy is trying to melt snow. Normal usage should be lower, though I can’t put my hands on a power meter right now, to test.

      2. Never had Dish but DirectTV dishes are passive. Just a single coax going to them. The set-top box didn’t seem to dissipate a whole lot of power, but I never measured and haven’t had satellite TV in years.

        1. They’ll power the LNB via DC over the coax, but the LNB doesn’t need much power, receive only. Dish internet will use more power, but will power the BUC and LNB over the coax as well

    3. Unfortunately, while that is worst case, average case isn’t an awful lot better.

      I’ve got a Starlink terminal, and it pulls 2.2-2.5kWh/day. Idle power last time I looked was in the 90W range, with frequent jumps up to 100W, and transmitting power (just saturating upload for testing) is around 130W.

      So, yes, most of a MWh/yr for fast-but-currently-erratic internet.

      It’s a very power hungry little device.

      One other bizarre behavior not mentioned in the review is that the speed arcs. Yes, at peak speed, it’s blindingly fast for rural options – but if you have a sustained transfer, you’ll see speeds rising and falling over time, from “not passing traffic” to 5, 10, 30, 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 200, and back down to “not passing traffic” over the course of a few minutes. I’d assume it’s related to the distance to the satellite, somehow, but just because you get a 250Mbit speed test does not mean it’s actually going to sustain 250Mbit.

      I can’t use it as a primary connection yet. I’m still on it as a secondary, because it breaks VPN connections and SSH tunnels often (multiple times a day, for reasons I’ve not worked out). It’s fine for browsing, it’s usually fine for large downloads, but for interactive stuff (“I’m SSH’d to another server for a few hours interacting with things”), it is just frustrating. Latency is erratic, traffic has “micro drops” where it just stops doing anything for a few seconds, etc. So I’m still on my WISP as a primary connection.

        1. Musk likes electrical devices, as he is all in on the whole battery powered electric car. I don’t think using a lot of electricity is something he considers bad.

          Electricity is the most flexible way to run devices and machines. Your power can come from a lot of different sources.

          My house is nuclear powered, but other people can be powered by natural gas, coal, wind, solar, hydro, biomass, and so on.

      1. Fluctuations are pretty much par for the course on any wireless device in motion, so from what I’ve seen reported the stability of starlink as it stands is actually really impressive, and does seem to be improving.

        Not surprised about power either – just look at how much your wifi router consumes to provide slower connection speed to one computer than to that same computer over Ethernet (remember to actually turn the wifi off on the router) at the small easily measured at home scale, this is the same problem but with far vaster distances and rapidly moving devices to make the comparison worse (though more directional antenna helps its got to stay on target).

        Direct connections are almost always better on energy consumption to data transferred by massive margins. The reason things like this and wifi in the home exists is because its costly, difficult, and wasteful to make, install and then dismantle and reinstall at a new location constantly – so its still arguably green, despite the higher power draw in use (also remember just because your local modem device doesn’t draw as much power doesn’t mean the ISP isn’t being woefully inefficient and burning heaps at the other end, though I’d hope not), and it is certainly much more practical than running Km of ethernet/fibre for the one user out in the middle of nowhere – its just like electric cars a much more complex topic to judge its ‘greenness’ than it might seem at first glance.

        Once true roaming is an option it becomes more universally tempting to get starlink rather it being mainly for those without a wired connection worth mentioning – proper internet connectivity visiting relatives etc, plus a functional backup for when your wired ISP or even local power grid is borked (which would also kill mobile phones networks), as long as it doesn’t mind being turned off for long periods and will just work when turned back on (and the price is acceptable).

        1. “Not surprised about power either – just look at how much your wifi router consumes to provide slower connection speed to one computer than to that same computer over Ethernet”

          Basic idea here is right, but without EEE this likely actually isn’t true in regular use. Prior to EEE, Ethernet links just actively transmitted all the time, regardless of whether or not they had any data. When you got to gigabit Ethernet scale, this ends up being really really bad (and driving EEE adoption) but even with normal 100 Mbit, if I imagine an old switch able to connect all of the devices connected to my WiFi router right now, it’d be pulling *way* more power just because inactive devices would idle.

          And sadly a fair number of people end up disabling EEE because they think it causes slowdown issues for them. A non-EEE gigabit ethernet link to your phone, for instance, would cut battery life *dramatically*.

          1. I’d completely forgotten EEE was a thing. But even without it I think you might still be surprised – your wifi network generally spends all day broadcasting so the devices can jump to the best signal of the known networks etc.. And that sucks down a fair bit – sure idling ethernet consumes power, but so does running the wifi chips continually to modulate transmit power, find the better network etc. Its a similar idling waste problem, does scale somewhat differently, but still similar.

            Also in the modern era of every device phoning home, streaming, always connected data economy I don’t think the idling matters very much for most home users, its not going to be idling long (though I expect many of us being more aware and tech-minded would find lots of idling wanted – as readers here probably have more devices, and have purged much of the phone home bloat etc). The real gains for things like EEE are in offices/industry where terminals can be on/standby on for long periods but truly doing nothing at all.

          2. I wouldn’t be surprised, considering I’ve measured both. GbE consumes its full power *all the time* without EEE. It’s not like idling a car, it’s burning pretty much a minimum of a full watt continuously *per port* (split between both sides). And EEE’s only very recently become ubiquitous – anything more than 10 years old certainly doesn’t have it, and even 5 years old is iffy. Many of the industrial SBCs I work with have to be forced out of GbE for power consumption reasons.

            WiFi beacons are a tiny fraction of livetime. It’s easy to find a WiFi router that can serve, say, 10 clients under 5 watts, at which point you would start to win over GbE. Obviously with EEE that goes totally out the window, and the bandwidth isn’t comparable at all.

            “I don’t think the idling matters very much for most home users,”

            I mean, *I* don’t live in a bizarre dystopia where every person in my house’s phone, computer, laptop, game system, and smart devices are all actively streaming and pegging their bandwidth. But to each his own, I guess!

          3. Glad to hear it, the dystopian future seems to be depressing close to real, if not actually real yet… When I look around I find more things are behaving that way than I’d like, that horrible facebook stuff everyone insists on using, your email client, the list goes ever on. Even the computers clock, and operating system updates – the more basic elements of a modern online lifestyle are often pinging away to something, sure its not saturating the link, but it does all combine and stop it from being idle often.

            And dystopian evils not included the shift towards thing like television streaming, the youtube type things, all the various music spotify type stuff, adding in those networked speakers for disubstituted sound that are becoming relatively common, most peoples homes probably do now have many devices frequently working the available bandwidth rather hard. Which does lead to the scaling difference favouring wifi over always on ethernet, assuming you actually have enough wifi bandwidth and coverage, soon as you need repeaters the whole equation shifts again.

          4. “most peoples homes probably do now have many devices frequently working the available bandwidth rather hard. ”

            I cannot imagine a home that has literally *every* connected device totally and completely pegging the available bandwidth. I’ve got like, 30 devices currently connected to my home router (which… is frightening) but there aren’t 30 people. The vast majority of those devices are just sitting there happy to be connected.

            So I mean, yeah, you can *imagine* everyone in the house streaming a game, having a movie playing on a TV, listening to music on a smart speaker and, I dunno, video chatting with someone on a laptop at the same time, but uh, that’s pretty dystopian to me.

            But even in that weird case you’ve still got plenty of other devices that’d *like* to be connected but can’t possibly be bandwidth hogs, like lights/thermostats/sensors/etc.

      2. The varying download speeds are almost certainly due to the altitude (angle) from you to the satellite. The closer the satellite is to the horizon, the more atmosphere exists between you and the satellite. The more air it has to pass through, the greater the attenuation of the signal. To address this, the transmitter can either increase power or slow the data rate (or both).

    4. PoE power limits follow electrical code “Class 2” rules meaning it must be under 100W at the source. PoE has proprietary (just liven up 4 pairs) and standards based (802.3bt for instance) methods to source up to 100W (PSE). To allow for cable losses, PoE devices (PD) usually do not exceed 80W. To go over 100W in North America suggest a non-PoE electrical certification (like CSA/UL 60950-1) and that could explain why the cable at the dish side didn’t come with an RJ-45 connector. Of course, I’m speculating, so consider your own theory. Measure and contribute… The AC power supply brick will be better than 90% efficient, whose AC input power can be easily measured. Even some common WiFi controlled AC switch cubes that plug in the wall have energy monitoring built in.

    1. I worked on mptcp port of openwrt, i read this distro is now using glorytun TCP tunnels. I am wondering what is the max speed on an embedded router, last time i tried the bottleneck was the cpu core of the router. Shadowsocks for example had problème to use multiple cores, it had to be patched to d’Isabel encryption.

  2. ugh this article just reminds me that since switching to fiber, i have an IPv6 address available to me and maybe i ought to …

    big sigh

    … learn something new, like what IPv6 is, and what it means for routing and firewalls and DNS and VPN

  3. Looks like the R405 resistor connects to VCC, since this is presumably a vertical orientation Micro-USB connector, for comms you don’t want VCC, just ground. So just populating the USB footprint should give you access to the USB port.

      1. It doesn’t seem like it could only be a pullup, however – if this is really USB, then the resistor is going to, what I’d guess, is the VCC line, which’d make sense because then it could be a fuse-like 0 ohm resistor. And, I can’t tell even from the full-res picture, but seems like there’s vias going from what’d be D+ and D- pins, and the GND+ID pins are grounded, which is within the boundaries of a workable microUSB design.

    1. And they know where you live, because the system isn’t passive. Seriously though. I wonder what Elon will do when governments start tapping his laser based communication net. They already like to sift through fiberoptic splices, it seems like a logical next step for them.

      1. Among the things covered in the bounty program is a bounty for intercepting and decrypting traffic. They’re trying to defend against that on a technical level. The whole Nation Security Letter issue is another ball of wax, though. Maybe in 20 years, SpaceX will be a Martian company, instead of American? :P

      2. In a case like this, the laser-based communications contain the same data as the microwave communications. Anything interesting could be sniffed via antenna without the need to intercept a laser beam. But then, anything propagated via free space is inherently interceptable without resorting to black bags and router room shenanigans.

      1. The Starlink app (at least the Android app) provides access to this information. Go to Support -> Advanced -> Debug Data. This displays some JSON-like text that includes latitude and longitude.

        Although I haven’t (yet) done it myself, I understand that there are tools that will permit you to extract data from the Starlink user terminal using gRPC. You might start with https://www.reddit.com/r/Starlink/wiki/index/starlink-tools or https://github.com/sparky8512/starlink-grpc-tools .

      1. Assuming it goes fully mobile eventually, it would be really nice to also get really accurate location information out of it. I suspect that’s what he has in ming.

    1. Surely that’s how it aligns itself. Might also be what it uses for a clock source. It’s kind of funny to think that it uses geo satellites to help it point at its own LEO mega constellation.

  4. And yet SpaceX haven’t solved the light pollution issues with starlink.

    They did make a “dark sat” that were some 50% less reflective, but it is still a bright streak over a telescopes sensors. And the 200 or so satellites with “sun shades” are only marginally darker. Ie, still too bright to not be a problem.

    Though, SpaceX response so far seems to mostly be, “take more pictures and edit out the streaks.” Something that doesn’t do anything against light scattering in the telescope itself. There is reasons why telescopes preferably shouldn’t have any lights nearby them at all. (One can say, “Paint the inside of the telescope black!” and astronomers already do that and guess where the really dark pigments are used? Vantablack for an example were partly developed with this in mind. Astronomers looks at some really dark stuff in the sky, much isn’t needed to wash out a telescope.)

    SpaceX also states that they are going to make tracking data available and also provide a service to make the satellites avoid key observations. (Literally every island out in the sea as well as a fair few mountain tops and other desolate places. There is a lot of observatories in the world. And these would need to be avoided at night.)

    Then there is also the problem that the satellites also effects radio telescopes too. Since apparently a metallic box is reflective to EM radiation other than visible light. So these types of sites also needs to be avoided. (except, a lot of radio telescopes operate 24/7.)

    The reason starlink is a problem compared to other satellites is mainly due to how insanely many there are. In 2018, before the whole starlink madness, there were only about 5 000 satellites in orbit. While now in May 2021 there is 1500 starlink satellites in orbit, or about a 30% increase for the total.

    Except, the starlink ones are far far closer to the ground and therefor take up more of the field of view exacerbating the whole issue.

    That SpaceX provides tracking information is frankly on par with someone flailing around a machine gun at the mall and blaming you for getting shot when they told you where they aimed. In my opinion, if one puts tons of stuff in space, one is also responsible for all the consequences it creates. (And this is also applicable to anyone, if your rocket booster falls down on someone’s home, then pay up and compensate for the damage.)

    Not that astronomers have the full rights over what people can put into space. But there has also been a couple of near misses with starlink satellites colliding with other stuff already out there. So other satellite operators might have something to say about the matter.

    Not to mention that a large majority of all space research founding goes into astronomy, not rocketry.
    Ie, SpaceX blocking out the sky as far as astronomers are concerned is a quick way to loose the founds for said rockets. Musk’s comment that astronomers simply has to deal with it is likely to end the whole starlink project. Even if the USA’s government still thinks it is a good idea from the rural ISP standpoint, the problems affects all astronomers world wide after all.

    In the end.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Starlink gets struck down in a couple of years, simply being a footnote to not put 12 thousand satellites into space. The writing is partly already on the wall. (Also, the FCC did offer more spectrum for another 30 thousand satellites for starlink, so make that future figure 42000 satellites. (Though, here one can also argue over if the FCC has legislation over spectrum out in space, especially over other countries.))

    Starlink’s worst enemy isn’t scummy ISP’s defending their poorly maintained turf, prior and future investments into astronomy is the more likely end. (considering how the current 1500 is regarded as annoying, how is then 12+ thousand going to be?)

    1. This.
      Although tbh I disagree the terrestrial astronomy funding beating space funding angle will work out like that.

      Firstly: I didn’t research the numbers, but I’d highly doubt terrestrial astronomy budgets even come close to space budgets. Yes, the new class of 30m telescopes (and friends) need G€/$/£ level budgets. But that’s just the same for comparable space *science* missions. And to quote a US space industry colleague of mine: “Yeah, sure, NASA is important. After all, it’s, what, the third or fourth largest space agency in the USA?”.
      There’s a *lot* of funding in space these days. Just not in space science.

      Secondly: StarLink is not dependent on “rocketry budgets”. StarLink is intended to make SpaceX financially independent.
      Think about it: a low latency link all across the globe? It currently is worth it to lay down a new transatlantic cable linking the London and NY financial centres for of order few 3e8 bucks, if it shaves off a few tens of ms of latency. StarLink will do that between any financial centre in the world, by much larger margins.
      No high frequency trader worldwide will be able to afford *not* to pay *whatever* Elon asks. StarLink is a license to print money by skimming financial parasites.
      I say this as anything but a fanboi: Well played, Elon, well played.

      Thirdly: we, that is humanity, have missed the chance to ensure society has a say in making sure activities in space benefit, well humanity at large. As long as you don’t put nukes in orbit or build a military fort on the moon, make sure you clean up your mess if something falls on the ground outside your territory, and play nice with radio licenses, you’re pretty much free to do anything you like. That’s why we have to “misuse” ITU radio licensing to have at least a minimum of oversight of who puts what in orbit. Not a big stick anymore, now that optical downlinks start to be a thing. The Outer Space Treaty was basically an arms race control treaty, never designed to manage expansion to space. Since a few countries (eg Luxembourg) have actively started to strategically cater to future space mining ventures, expansionist countries like the US or China are NOT going to play along trying to set up international treaties limiting commercial space activities.
      Nobody will limit Elon here.

      I’m just a big a fan of The Expanse as anyone here, and sure hope Elon will turn Tony Stark not Blofeld, but I feel humanity missed a chance there…
      Ah well. Let’s stay optimistic! I for one welcome Elon as a future overlord instead of Page, Brin and Zuck. At least this way we’ll get a shot at becoming a trans-terrestrial society.

      1. I think you put too fine a point on stock trading. Some exchanges do quite the opposite and put spools of fiberoptic cable between the servers simply to delay HFT and physically remove the possibility of cheating.

        1. Some stock exchanges will not accept HFT.
          Partly since it increases the computational load of the exchange. (Ie, costs the exchange more money.)
          And it can disrupt the market depending on the nature of the trading happening.
          And some exchanges requires that a person needs to make the sell/buy orders, even if it all technically is handled by computers.

          And yes, there is at least 1 exchange having some 10 miles of fiber as a delay line. Simple, but seemingly effective.

      2. That space is partly unregulated is indeed true. And potentially problematic at some point. (Considering how excessively greedy and self centered most people tend to be then anarchy isn’t advantageous for the masses.)

        But in regards to world wide budgets spent on space vs astronomy. Then the two overlap, and there is far more than just new shiny 30 meter telescopes being built and maintained. The smaller ones exist in plenty. And some of these have whole supply chains dedicated to them due to their remoteness.

        In regards to low latency connections.
        Companies could put down a coax cable on the ocean floor instead of fiber. Considering how fiber gets up to about 70-80% the speed of light, while a good coax gets to 98-99%, then this is honestly surprising that people aren’t doing this more often. (But it could partly be that High Frequency Trading is also not allowed on a lot of stock exchanges. For various debatable reasons…)

        Though, the main issue with starlink is just the immense number of satellites planned for deployment.

        1. Hi namesake :)

          I have to admit I don’t know a good source of the worldwide astronomy budgets, but it seems the largest ground-based and space-based space science projects are roughly comparable in budget. ESO’s ELT is 1.3G€, TMT is 1.4G$, ALMA is 1.4G$. ESA’s “L-class” missions (JUICE going to Jupiter, the ATHENA X-Ray observatory and the LISA gravitational wave observatory) are ~1G€ each plus member-state contributed instruments, let’s say of order 1.5G€ total each. Curiosity and Perseverance were about 2.5G$ each, and okay, JWST is the oddball with almost 10G€.

          Considering this rough equivalency, there’s no way the ground-based observatories even come close to the entire non-science space sector: out of 114 launches in 2020 only six were for space science: SolO, the three Mars launches, the Chinese lunar lander Chang’e 5, and a Chinese high-energy all-sky monitor called GECAM (I’ve neglected the sciency cubesats and the Earth observation science missions).
          Compare that to 8 big launches for the US military alone, plus maaany earth observation and communication launches. I don’t think the small-to-mid sized ground-based observatories I’ve ignored come even close to that kind of volume. There’s just not that many new ones being built. Actually, many are even being decommissioned as funding is limited and flows to the big toys rather than upkeep. (Which is a pity: myself I built my PhD on a 1.3m observatory. Good times.)

          Now why am I making this point? To quote:
          > Not to mention that a large majority of all space research founding goes into astronomy, not rocketry.
          > ie, SpaceX blocking out the sky as far as astronomers are concerned is a quick way to loose the founds for said
          > rockets. Musk’s comment that astronomers simply has to deal with it is likely to end the whole starlink project.

          Not gonna happen. Unfortunately, astronomy is just not a global political force to reckon with. :(
          And even if it were: StarLink is not government funded, and SpaceX not dependent on science launches. Musk is free to do what he wants. Which was my point about regulation: we just have no mechanism (besides ITU) to say “no”.

          I’d love if it were different, I got SO angry when I first saw a StarLink “chain” just go on and on and on from a light-polluted city centre. Alas, I fear StarLink is here to stay. To grow, actually.

          You do raise an interesting point about the coax vs fibre speed, though!
          Never thought about it. Maybe the repeaters for under sea coax add too much delay vs fibre repeaters? Maybe the dielectrics used in undersea cables are very different? I just know the Hibernia Express transatlantic cable shaved all of 5ms off between NY and London by going more direct, and apparently was worth it costing something like 300M€. They used fibre and the 5ms shortcut was their value proposition.
          No idea, pointers welcome to what I’m missing.

          Lastly, @Dude and you made an interesting point about HFT being over-hyped, and regulations starting to crop up. As far as I know, the exchanges limiting HFT (technologically or just by regulations) are still far in between. I’d love to be wrong there though, and look forward to a pointer to statistics showing that. Not exactly a fan of HFT myself, tbh. Bunch of parasites, really. Bring on a Tobin tax and end the madness.

          However: allegedly the Hibernia express service mentioned above costs of order 300k€/month, whereas the 5ms slower competition costs 35k€/month. Even if Musk can’t skim _every_ stock exchange as some exchanges find curbing HFT as their niche, it certainly sounds profitable to me to set up a global low-latency network. Skimming even one percent of global HFT profits could well end up being more profitable for SpaceX than the classical launcher business.
          But I’m not a businessman, don’t know the HFT or telecoms markets, and love to be educated by more knowledgeable internet commentators :)

          /2c

          1. Just like there is more to rocket science than building rockets, there is more to astronomy than just building observatories.

            Some say, “just move the telescopes into space!”, but that isn’t a solution.
            Firstly, a telescope orbiting earth has the issue of a lot shorter exposure windows compared to ground based observations. (This though depends on where one puts the thing.)
            Secondly, it is hard to put an equally large primary mirror into space compared to what can be done on the ground. The amount of collected light is proportional to the size of the primary mirror after all.
            Thirdly, even with actively cooled cameras, there is still a noise floor that will introduce limits to how long a single exposure can practically be, not to mention other issues with working with such slow exposures. (Ie, a smaller mirror in space isn’t going to perform the same.)
            Fourthly, a lot of satellites have issues with heat, the sun emits about 1kW/m^2, while a perfect black body at 25 C emits only about 30 W/m^2. Leading to a net heating of the satellite. (And the many interesting methods of combating this issue is actually interesting in their own regard.) So keeping the camera sufficiently cool is going to be its own issue.

            Not that space based telescopes are a complet waste of money, they do have their own list of advantages, but they aren’t a replacement to ground based observations.

            Then there is the radio telescopes, they too are affected.

            So putting 12-42 thousand low orbit satellites into space will hinder the performance of the larger ground based telescopes that frankly can’t currently be replaced with ones in space.

            Though, I don’t think astronomy is the main reason Starlink is going to have problems.

            As stated prior, one can’t casually put 12-42 thousand satellites into space without someone complaining. It is just like any other large project. People that are directly or indirectly affected will have an opinion on the matter.

            Astronomers are directly affected.
            But so is other organizations looking at putting their own stuff into space. (since a collision might happen.)

            Some countries will value the night sky itself, and could just complain that there is too many streaks flying by overhead, and then do what they can to ensure that it is reduced to satisfactory levels. (Not that I think any country is silly enough to for an example ban Tesla cars from driving on public roads, just because Elon is behind both companies. But some countries do make silly decisions.)

            Then there is the whole “spy” part of the debate. A few countries might have their own opinions on the existence of such a network. Be it giving “free” (uncensored) networking to their populations or just aiding the unscrupulous types in avoiding surveillance.

            There is also the debate if it creates an international monopoly on rural networking. Obviously, other satellite based ISPs aren’t competitive, and likely lack the economy to provide anything similar within a reasonable time frame. (Competition is good for the market, but at some point it is nothing but a complete knockout leaving the market less competitive overall.)

            But there is likely tons of other reasons for there to be complaints. After all, people do complain about far smaller things.

          2. Hey [Alexander], look, you’re preaching to the choir!
            I _know_ there’s more to astronomy than building big observatories. As I mentioned, I worked on a small/mid sized one myself. Also, I do know the solution is not “astronomy will anyway be in space”. I started ground based, but work in space science now. Space is really great for a lot of things incl astronomy, but it won’t replace ground-based astronomy.

            My opinion is StarLink is a huge problem. Like you say. Many tens of thousands of birds in one constellation? Plus the eventual copycats? What could possibly go wrong? It’s a mess!

            I hate how one rich dude can just unilaterally do this, and worldwide society can do nothing about it. I hate how people just don’t see the problem with that. (Even though I do see the friggin great opportunities this brings. Yeah, I know. It’s complicated).

            I just say, all astronomy and space science and opinions in the world is not going to turn the money-machine around. Unfortunately!
            I fear StarLink is not only a viable business idea, it’s actually genius. Pushing this as hard and fast as Musk is doing, he’s going to have the market to himself, the competition will be constantly late to the party. (IF he pulls it off, that is). He’s then using that to fund BIG cheap rockets. Independently! (In contrast to what SpaceX has done so far, which was all subsidised with profitable guaranteed launch contracts). Once he has both, money and launchers, the sky’s the limit. He’s creating all sorts of huge markets he’ll have effective monopolies for. (Well. The Chinese will probably end up on his level)

            The point is, it’s NOT going to be stopped. Not for astronomy, despite all sorts of organisations’ and countries’ opinions, and not even once they’ll inevitably smash something up. (That first instance where SpaceX didn’t even answer mail and the other bird had to be moved? That was Aeolus. Technological marvel, one of a kind. Took like 10y longer than anticipated to get it right, turns out it’s actually really hard to do high energy UV lasers in space. Not even the US have that. And a stupid mass-produced StarLink sat almost smashed it up with impunity. Grr.).

            Too much money, too little leverage, no political will.
            US gonna pull support? He’ll relocate to Luxemburg, they’ve already started to position themselves as safe haven for Asteroid mining companies of the future, for crying out loud. So the US won’t pull support.
            International complaints won’t work either, as there’s just no legal framework for that. I mean, look at how well it worked to curb CO2 emissions worldwide. And that is arguably more important and more urgent than managing commercial space expansion.
            Mark my words: it won’t stop. (If Musk can pull it off before going broke, that is)

            While I really hate all that (and hope I’m wrong and you’re right), I also think we should look towards what opportunities that kind of future can bring. Mass produced SC busses. Cheap heavy-lift launchers. And I mean HEAVY: 100t to LEO? BLOODY hell. You can go places with this stuff! Forget Mars’ barren wastelands, think asteroids! Think The Expanse! (okay: without the Epstein drive and Protomolecule)
            Plus: the tech in Dishy McDishface is really cool, isn’t it?

            For better or for worse, we’re living in the future.

    2. I think stopping all satellite mesh networks is currently third on the big list.
      1, Remove all outdoor artificial lighting.
      2. Remove all combustion vehicles from the roadways.
      3. Remove Starlink satellites.

      I for one, would be very, Very surprised if Starlink is struck down in a couple of years.

      I would not be at all surprised, however, if the official response is… “deal with it.”

      This is an easy test though, all we have to do is wait and see.

      1. I never said anything stopping satellite mesh networks in general.

        Just that putting 12-42 thousand low orbit satellites is likely to have international political issues as a result.

        It is similar to doing anything else on a grand scale. Like building a large dam, digging a big hole, or just building a power plant somewhere. There will always be some degree of complaints from those directly and indirectly affected. And also from those with an opinion on the matter.

        It generally doesn’t matter what Elon, the USA, or frankly any specific person or organization thinks. If the satellites are problematic or otherwise offensive towards enough other countries (or their organizations/investments), then it doesn’t matter how profitable the project is, a new treaty would be formed and the USA/Elon would find themselves facing ramifications.

        Though, one can be arrogant and say, “Such ain’t ever going to happen!”, all I am saying is that it could happen and I wouldn’t be surprised if it does.

    3. I’d be surprised – and even if starlink gets shut down its not the only game of the sort in space, just the most deployed and developed so far, shutting them all down seems highly unlikely without some magic tech breakthrough in communication speed via other means or a war big enough that I don’t think anybody left would care much…

      Ultimately with how cheap space launches are becoming I expect most ground telescopes will end up either redundant or in use as space telescope C&C centres – The money in, and demand for connectivity from the general public globally is too high for a little inconvenience to a relatively tiny group of scientists to matter a fig (plus space telescopes are inherently more useful as that pesky atmosphere, local light pollution, etc isn’t buggering up the results)

      1. Yes. It’s way too late to put the cork back in this bottle, regardless if some people think it’s a mistake.

        Plus, while it may have a large impact on astronomers and photographers. Its worth noting that the impact is primarily on “amateur” astronomers and photographers. The big land based scopes had to solve the issue long ago due to existing satellite traffic, birds, planes, occlusions in optics, airborne matter (dust), smog, etc. They came up with digital mapping workarounds. So while it’ll absolutely mess with a time lapse photo, it’s not stopping the big boys. Science goes on.

        Additionally, they primarily reflect sunlight for a period after sunset, and a period before sunrise. This is due to the very fact that they are in such a low orbit. In true night, no camera would pick up a black – dishwasher sized object at 300 miles.

        In fact, compensating technology will likely advance significantly in coming years because of space based traffic. This tech will slowly seep down to the consumer scopes and other instruments.

        The machine gun in a mall analogy is poor since, if you have an accurate map, you can avoid the shots.

    4. >functionality to avoid key observations
      Not really how orbits work. Every change in the orbit requires a change in velocity (aka fuel shot out of an engine) and fuel is very limited when you’re a satellite. “Avoiding” key observations would either wipe out the satellites or wipe out ground coverage.

      >Then there is also the problem that the satellites also effects radio telescopes too. Since apparently a metallic box is reflective to EM radiation other than visible light.
      If you’re talking about space radars it’s extremely easy to discriminate by distance. They chop off everything that pings back nearer than their target. Everything like that gets ignored by modern radar systems.
      If you’re talking about passive telescopes then yeah, it’s a huge issue. Anything thats screaming tens to hundreds of watts of RF at you will mess up your observation, even if the frequency is different. They might need to code in a block that prevents the satellites’ phased arrays from beaming RF at radio-quiet zones, even then its still an issue because the satellite’s antennas aren’t perfect and at least some of the RF goes in every direction.

      I hate to be the kind of “let them eat cake” asshole that every futureproofing conversation has, but what’s stopping the astronomical community from building enormous spaceborne visual/IR/radio telescopes? Radio telescopes could have really stupid huge apertures made from retractable tarp mesh thingies, like solar sails. Something similar could probably be done with a reflective extendable-sail-tarp under tension.

      I think the ISPs /are/ going to be the biggest threat. They are “those” companies, the ones what have the entire political elite in their pocket for one reason or another. No WAY they’re going to let anyone provide >10mbps@<200ms to $NOT_A_GIGANTIC_COASTAL_CITY america without putting up a fight. Inb4 starlink is outlawed or regulated into infeasability hell.

  5. My original Starlink router is now disconnected. I have my Asus RT-AX3000 running Asuswrt-Merlin connected directly to the POE brick. The Starlink app on my iPhone works fine with the Asus router and shows me all the connection statistics. The system has been running this way for about a week with zero issues compared to using the Starlink router. Not sure why you would want to hack that Starlink router. It doesn’t do much.

  6. I hope Musk soon starts advertising this for sale to people trapped in China, bring down the censorship wall once and for all. Well done SpaceX, you’ve got the technology. now make full use of its potential. Dishy McFlatface for everyone in a censored regime.

      1. All but a handful of the satellites in orbit require a direct link to a ground station to provide internet. The eventual plan is to launch sats with laser links, that can communicate directly between satellites. There are just over a dozen of these already in orbit, serving a test deployment way out in the poles. https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2021/01/spacex-adds-laser-links-to-starlink-satellites-to-serve-earths-polar-areas/

        The hope is that eventually enough laser-link sats get deployed that service works everywhere. They’ve even talked about routing traffic over the sats, in a shortest-time scheme, since the speed of light in a vacuum is faster than in fiber cable.

        1. Sure, although the biggest delay is on the way up and down from the satellite, which adds an extra 1000 km to the signal path, while the fiberoptic cable has only about 30% disadvantage, so the benefits of having faster propagation is only felt at continental scales. The distance between points should have to be more than 3000 km or so, and for these distances you have to hop the signal from satellite to satellite, each of which adds its own processing delay which is dominating the whole thing anyways.

      2. The Chinese government would most likely set up signal jammers. To be honest I’m sure they’ve probably considered giant Faraday cage domes by this point. -semi-joking.

        1. Why bother with a faraday cage? It’s easier to enforce censorship by putting the people in the cages. And it mostly works. There’s frankly very little news coming out of Xinjang given the scale of their “re-education” project.

        2. the aren’t likely to need censorship. If it was about access to information, we’d have seen some sort of shift with all the Chinese nationals living abroad.
          A combination of peer-pressure, misinformation, information overload, and old fashioned blackmailing will keep people in check.

          As it is, motivated Chinese nationals in China have ways around the Great Firewall.

          Just look at the US where there is generally free access to information and look at the people who freely choose to self censor the information they consume.

    1. Illegal according to international law.

      Fundamentally this gets into the argument: would you go to war over it?

      Piss of China or Russia enough and they just might start shooting them down.
      They’re low enough they could potentially do it with lasers.

      1. There is more than just China and Russia to piss off to be fair.
        A lot of countries have fairly odd laws in regards to both censorship and security. Going through some random 3rd party in space that is owned and operated by a US company isn’t directly rubbing all countries the right way.

        Shooting down the satellites is likely the least efficient way about the problem though.
        Just having countries talk with each other can put a damper on these sorts of ventures fairly effectively as well.

        It isn’t like China for an example already have complained about other countries sending low orbit satellites through their air space. (Since different countries do regard the start of space at different heights. But there is more or less an international standard for this. But countries can still complain about stuff higher up regardless.)

        I would be surprised if Starlink doesn’t get some political pressure against it at some point.

        Be it moving the satellites higher, reducing their numbers, or potentially getting canned as a whole.

    2. Most likely China will not allow operation of this from within their country due to it potentially being able to breech the great firewall of China. It woulnd’t be too hard for them to fly around their country listening for transmissions upto the spacex sats from the ground and narrow in on them. The only way they would probably allow it would be if spacex implemented a great firewall of china, or required all traffic from Chinese dishes to be beamed back down to a ground station in China which is behind the great firewall.

      1. The path of most income is to agree to anything china wants and have the rural chinese as potential customers. Musk is interested only in making enough money to get to mars. Censorship means very little to him. I dont see any long term viability in starlink though. Present day LTE networks already have better latency, upload and reliability than starlink. Sure, in some 3rd world countries the local networks might be shoddy and starlink could make sense, but vector in the power drain of the equipment used 24/7 and the long term costs for single users become prohibitive. Communities might well be willing to put up with the operating cost.

        1. You forget the number of folks with mobile homes and yachts, the crew of all the ships that carry goods around the globe and those that want a reliable backup not tied to local power grids.

          There is more than enough demand to make the service worth having even if eventually every static building has fast fibre and/or high speed cellular networking (which is never going to happen).

          Sure the power drain is meaningful, but not big enough to really stand out – the fridge/freezers and myriad of devices left on or in low-power state in most homes is already probably around 2-3 times more as a baseline. For those that live in climates needing it the AC/heating cost is generally massively massively more than that too. The power cost is also bugger all per persion if you are sharing it around a few households..

          So I suspect such a network isn’t going anywhere – its also so much cheaper in infrastructure than wiring up the entire globe, and simpler to upgrade and increase performance as needed, newer tech goes into the next generation of launches and more nodes can always be added as well. Much easier than burying a new fibre everywhere you want to upgrade, and cheaper too as the satellites only need enough bandwidth to share out among the many users in range, a ground network each step needs to be able to handle much more, as the network elements that serve the retiree filled, technophobe suburb can’t do anything to carry the load of anywhere else…

          On the censorship issue who knows, lets wait and see. Wouldn’t be the first western company to trade differently inside China, the list is infact so long now that expecting anything else is rather foolish. But its quite possible the Chinese won’t allow any of the similar networks to function inside their borders at all, time will tell.

    1. Run a power cable and an Ethernet hub. Ethernet per hub of 300ft is normal. Beware speed may drop massively as number if users increase as it is a shared network between all users in the satellite footprint.

  7. There are some industrial systems providing “digital power” (PoE) at very high wattage for stuff like lighting. It gets round US union laws – you need a unionised worker to install AC wiring, but anyone can install Ethernet cables. Plus it’s actually safer, as it can monitor the state of the cable and detect damage like a nail through a cable faster than it can cause damage.

    1. Around here (MD and maybe all of metro DC, MD, VA) you need a contractors license to install low voltage wiring commercially. This includes phone, alarm, data, ethernet. You don’t need to be union to install AC. You need a contractor license. Not all that easy since it needs bond and insurance and etc. Most things can be done DIY in your own residence except gas and HVAC but they still want a permit and inspection.

      1. Some of that is set state-by-state. In my state, there isn’t permitting for low voltage, anyone can do it. ( Which isn’t saying that just anyone *should* do it)

      2. In Wisconsin a property owner can do any electrical work they want. To be legit a permit must be pulled and tmhave the work inspected. Some local jurisdictions (counties) have a few other rules such as taking a test on rudimentary knowledge.

  8. Even though I’m at the mercy of a ‘no-competition’ ISP, there are simply too many ‘paper-cuts’ in this scheme to suit me…and they are all covered–one way or another–by Elon Musk’s standard “…No problem; that’ll be fixed later–just wait…” response.
    [So…Musk’s unique system design is that his satellites are so low that they’ll be continually falling out of the sky, hmmm? And Musk’s answer is simply to continually keep loading up low-earth-orbit with replacement satellites which will, of course, then fall back to earth again–but not before contributing to the burgeoning load of space trash–huh?
    Anyone else here, see a bit of a problem reconciling this with Musk’s desire to paint himself as the savior of, and the one person who has a solution for, all our–heretofore–profligate ways?]

    1. There is a bit of a disconnect in your reasoning. If satellites are falling out of the sky, they aren’t contributing to the load of space trash. Other than that, it’s perfectly reasonable to be skeptical.

      1. Regardless of your definition of space trash, they are still trash falling down from space, which is about as stupid as building cars with the assumption that you’ll simply tip them in the ditch by the side of the road when they break.

        If you have 50,000 satellites up there with a 0.2% random failure rate with a satellite going unresponsive, you will have 100 satellites entering the atmosphere over a random location over the lifespan of each replacement constellation. Roughly 5% of the earth’s land surface can be considered inhabited by people, and 30% of the surface is land, so the probability of NOT landing on someone’s back yard is about 98.5%. However, if you repeat it a 100 times, 0.985^100 = 22%. The real odds are made worse by the fact that Starlink doesn’t cover the poles where nobody lives.

        In other words, space junk will be raining down on people all the time. Whether it’s little grains of molten metal, nuts and bolts, or proper big chunks, doesn’t really make a difference on the principle of it.

          1. It depends. I don’t think they can always guarantee it will burn up 100%, and even what “burn up” means isn’t really defined. How small will the remaining fragments be? Microns, millimeters? If you have a lucky piece of panel that does a loop-de-loop in the upper atmosphere and loses enough velocity to simply drop down, what then?

            And the stuff that will be raining down even if it is ground to dust is still basically e-waste. RoHS doesn’t apply to satellites because unleaded solder still runs a risk of tin pest/whiskers.

          2. Also, the “complete burn-up” is at odds with the plans for laser links, because the components used for the laser modules have chunks of silicon carbide in them, for the mirrors and precise focus/alignment. Starlink had to remove those components to answer at least partially the FCC’s complaint that falling Starlink satellites would have resulted in as many as 500,000 separate objects reaching Earth’s surface within each constellation lifetime.

            In the original design, “nine pieces of each Starlink satellite, including thruster parts, reaction wheels used for maneuvering, and silicon carbide communications components”, would have fallen all the way down. The new design replaces these with “less resilent materials”, but:

            “John Crassidis, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University at Buffalo. “But there’s nothing to say that aluminum won’t survive,” he says. ‘Anything can come through the atmosphere if you hit at just the right angle. If they’re guaranteeing it’s not going to cause an issue, then I’m going to have call BS on it.'”

          3. >”Statistics which are made up”

            The point is, even with an implausibly low failure rate, you’re still getting a lot of satellite junk falling onto people.

        1. There’s now a law about space junk, but I didn’t pay enough attention to remember details. But the ARRL or AMSAT have been worried, because it impacts more on small satellites than much bigger ones, since they have tge space and money to comply.

        2. Not really, far far better to have the car throw itself into the crusher when it breaks than linger in the way basically forever (so in space just float around making a mess).
          In space there are only really 3 options,
          – bring it down intact – stupidly expensive and a large technical challenge that is almost impossible to do without sacrificial heat shields
          – leave it up there – where its just going to get in the way
          – let it burn up on the way down.

          I suppose technically there is another option but the extra fuel / early retirement to hurl itself off into space makes no sense at all.

          The Earth is constantly bombarded by junk, a few satellites really doesn’t make any odds if they are designed to burn up the tiny bits that are left are pretty much harmless, certainly not something you would notice over all the other junk in the air and on the ground. Heck we actively fire off metal powder filled rockets just because they look pretty, and those fireworks are probably thousands of times worse on human impact – they are deliberately scattering their content around humans!

          1. The junk that’s coming at earth comes in at such a high speed that it WILL burn up regardless. Satellites on low earth orbit need to be directed down so the parts would rain down where they won’t hit anyone or anything important. Even sprinkling bits of satellites over someone’s corn field is a bit of a no-no.

            The problems come when you have a satellite that fails unresponsive, which means you can’t control it, which means it will come down when it will, where it will.

          2. Will burn up isn’t at all certain, a great deal of space crap makes it to the ground, often its more dust by this point, but its still unwanted junk that ends up on the ground.

            The tiny bits of a satellite, designed to burn up easily, that actually make it are going to be almost irrelevant, especially vs all the junk we actively litter the surface with anyway (heck the whole constellation of satellites being magically dropped intact barely registers).

            Also as the materials selected in construction are not actively super hazardous, its not like you build a satellite out of nerve agent enriched polymers, nothing in them is all that dangerous, so the tiny little bits that might make it intact are not a big deal…

    2. “Anyone else here, see a bit of a problem reconciling this with Musk’s desire to paint himself as the savior of, and the one person who has a solution for, all our–heretofore–profligate ways?]”

      Better than the load the “take the money and run” incumbents deliver. He has rockets, and he has satellites. What do the incumbents have?

    3. It’s a beta system. You should have no expectations. I have had it for about two months. I have not dropped my $85/month 5mb/sec no competition dsl service yet. But, even with all of the drop outs I like the StarLink system better. I read another review a week or two ago. The writer made the point that the fact we even have StarLink is because of the no-competion franchise tax hungry municipalities system in the US. People are pissed off. It is utterly crazy that I am happy using this incredibly complex technology that is screwing up astronomy when someone could just plant some glass fiber in my yard.

  9. > Having excess launch capacity means that space projects that were previously infeasible become suddenly at least plausible.

    s/space projects/Kessler syndrome/

    Only half joking.

    1. I don’t know you and your skill set, but I’m going with 99.99% nope.

      Check some of the (linked) teardowns on these. It’s got many, many small antenna patches used as a steerable array. Not witchcraft, but definitely voodoo. And $$.

    2. I was thinking of doing that, i have a shockingly similar VSAT terminal torn down in my shed. Sling it up on a VERY fast satellite tracker and its gucci. Only issue is reverse engineering their proprietary communications stack. It’d require tons of work, but nothing says someone somewhere can’t.

  10. that cost of launching is lower with spacex is largely a myth. another myth is that reusing boosters lowers the cost of launches. Thunderf00t did a pretty good debunking of those myths.
    launching is cheaper for some, because it is subsidized by US taxpayer.

    1. Thunderf00t pulled as many fast ones in that video as he debunked. The number of launches that SpaceX has self-funded should be evidence that they are indeed bringing costs down.

    1. Winston said: “Rain attenuation?”

      Yeah, that’s the big question IMO. According to [1] the dishy earth-space links run at 24 GHz. Trust me, even LEO link budgets at that frequency are pretty ugly due to not only rain, but clear-sky/cloud atmospheric losses too.

      What’s weird is that if rain is going to be a problem, we should have heard complaints about it by now, but I haven’t seen any. So maybe Starlink is employing some sort of technology to get around rain attenuation, multi-factor diversity of some sort – maybe. After-all the beam is electronically steerable, and may even support multiple beams at the same time, plus the rx/tx frequency/frequencie is/are agile. So if there’s a fade on one link, maybe it uses a different link in real-time that isn’t faded. Because the senior management at SpaceX is technically knowledgeable, anything is possible. SpaceX finding a way to mitigate rain fade with Starlink, would not surprise me.

      * References:

      1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink#Technology

  11. It’s not surprising they use NAT for IPv4, as the addresses simply are not available. There are many other ISPs that provide carrier grade NAT to their customers. The smart ones also provide IPv6. The move to IPv6 is long overdue, as IPv4 has been inadequate for years. Even my cell carrier uses 464XLAT to provide IPv4 to my phone and tethered devices, but they provide a full /64 prefix.

  12. Jonathan Bennett said: “Dishy needs a clear view of the sky, and the EHF frequency in use is very sensitive to physical barriers.”

    According to [1] the Starlink earth-space links with Dishy operate at 24 GHz, which (if-true) would be SHF (3-30 GHz)[2], not EHF (30-300 GHz)[3].

    * References:

    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlink#Technology

    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_high_frequency

    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extremely_high_frequency

    1. I’m wondering what is the bandwidth limit of the ground station link to the StarLink satellites? This is what all users active on any one particular satellite would share, and what presently must limit the number of typical users any satellite can bear before the speeds are averaged down too low to be an advantage over terrestrial delivery methods.

      Using lasers between satellites would also require the transport capacity that can only be provided by laser links to earth stations. Multiple earth stations would be necessary all over the world to account for local weather variables.

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