The Starlink project is a project announced by SpaceX CEO Musk in January 2015. The project plans to build a network of 12,000 satellites in space from 2019 to 2025, of which 1,584 will be deployed in low-Earth orbit at a distance of 550 kilometers above the earth, and will eventually be all-weather for all regions on the earth (including Antarctica) Provide high-speed, low-cost satellite Internet. This means that whether you are in the Arctic or in the Amazon jungle, you can connect to the Internet. Due to the smooth progress, in 2020, SpaceX will submit another 30,000 low-orbiting small satellite plan to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This means that the Starlink project will eventually form a super-giant satellite constellation of nearly 42,000 satellites.The essence of the Starlink project is to use near-Earth satellites as communication base stations. This model is not the first of Musk. As early as the 1990s, Motorola proposed and implemented a global mobile communication system-the “Iridium Project.” However, during the development of the Iridium plan, terrestrial communications developed rapidly, and mobile phones became popular around the world. Due to Motorola’s strategic prediction errors in the development of mobile communications, the plan ultimately failed.At present, SpaceX has launched a service test called “Better Than Nothing” (Better Than Nothing) for users in the northern United States. Participants need to spend US$499 on antennas and routers, and a monthly network service fee of US$99. SpaceX said: The feedback from the test is “super good”, and people are enjoying fast Internet speeds and short delays. SpaceX plans to extend service testing to Canada. Before the test, the “Starlink” team stated that the network data transmission speed is expected to be between 50 and 150 Mbps, and the network delay is controlled to be between 20 and 40 milliseconds.
The military ambitions behind “Starlink”
At present, it is not uncommon for commercial satellites worldwide, including the low-orbit “Iridium” constellation, to be used in military communications. Therefore, although the Starlink project is a commercial low-orbit satellite constellation project of SpaceX, its potential for military applications is also huge.Although the company’s CEO Musk has repeatedly emphasized that in the future, Starlink will be transformed into a “global satellite Internet”, mainly for civilian use, but anyone with a discerning eye can see that the Starlink project is far more than simple for civilian use.First of all, the Starlink project is supported by the US military-part of SpaceX’s launch site is built in the US Vandenberg Air Force Base. In June 2020, SpaceX announced an agreement with the U.S. military to use the Starlink satellite group to conduct communications tests for the U.S. Army. At present, the US Air Force and Army are already actively exploring the application of “Starlink”, and it is expected that tens of thousands of satellites may support US military operations in the future.After the completion of the Starlink project, what advantages will it provide to the US military?1. Significantly improve the US military’s broadband communications and precision navigation capabilities.The Starlink project can provide low-cost, high-speed Internet services with global coverage. If used in the military, it can provide global beam coverage of high-speed satellite Internet without blind spots, which will greatly enhance the US military’s combat communication capabilities and GPS precise navigation capabilities.In March 2019, the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation signed a contract worth 28 million U.S. dollars with SpaceX, requiring it to conduct military service demonstrations on the “Starlink” within 3 years. In November 2019, the U.S. Air Force conducted an early low-orbit technology verification test on Starlink, which included a test of direct interconnection between satellites and antenna arrays of U.S. Air Force fighter jets. It is said that “Starlink” provides U.S. C-12 aircraft with up to 610Mbps bandwidth network service, which is an order of magnitude higher than the 5-50Mbps bandwidth Internet service of maritime satellites purchased by most aircraft. This will greatly reduce the cost of using long-range drones in the future, and the number of drones used may continue to rise.
2. Help the United States seize limited resources to achieve a wartime “space blockade”.Early construction and utilization of the low-orbit constellation system can not only seize the limited low-orbit orbit resources, but also help seize the initiative of the spectrum, which will have an important impact on the use of battlefield communication channels. Currently, Starlink has a clear advantage in this regard. In addition, after all the more than 40,000 satellites of the Starlink project are launched, a barrier will be built in low earth orbit. For rockets of other countries to determine the launch window, they must communicate and coordinate with the operators of the Starlink project. Otherwise, It will collide with the “Starlink” satellite. Once there is a war, “Starlink” can implement a “space blockade” against the enemy.3. Strengthen the technical advantages of global reconnaissance and surveillance.Relying on its advantages in reconnaissance and surveillance technology, the US military has built a full-dimensional, all-weather, and real-time three-dimensional reconnaissance and surveillance system, and the battlefield has single-line transparency to it. If the “Starlink” satellite carries an optical observation load at the same time, combined with its high revisit rate, it can achieve 24-hour uninterrupted optical monitoring and analysis. Through the automatic identification, classification tracking and image recognition system of the big data system, it can further improve its visibility. Target recognition rate and enhanced anti-jamming capabilities will greatly enhance the U.S. military’s ability to monitor moving objects on the ground and targets in space.Although the Starlink project is advancing very fast, it is after all a plan designed by a company for commercial purposes, and there is still a certain distance from the overall vision of the US military. Therefore, the U.S. military is envisaged to implement a plan for top-level design by the military and the use of new technologies from commercial companies. On March 12, 2019, SDA was formally established. The main responsibility of the SDA is to accelerate the development and deployment of new military aerospace capabilities and to ensure the technical and military superiority of the US military in the space field. The military requirements for the construction of the new generation of the US military’s space system clearly point to missile defense and space confrontation, which indicates that the development of the US military’s space equipment system is brewing a major change.
The huge hidden dangers of “Starlink”
The Starlink project may eventually launch 42,000 satellites. Although these satellites are usually invisible to human eyes in orbit, it has a great impact on astronomical researchers and professional astrophotographers who use optical telescopes and radio telescopes. If these satellites are relatively dark and there are not many satellites, these noises or abnormal trajectories can generally be removed through image analysis. If they are bright and large in number, image processing will be very difficult. Although SpaceX has issued a statement, hoping to try to use a new coating to reduce the brightness of the “Starlink” satellites, and promised to adjust the satellite’s direction according to the needs of the observatory. However, the voices of opposition and doubt are rising, and the negative impact of these satellites on astronomical research is significant and inevitable.Optical astronomy bears the brunt. After the sun goes down, the night has fallen on the earth, but these low-Earth orbit satellites above the earth will continue to reflect sunlight and appear very bright in the night sky. These satellites move very fast, like bright celestial bodies moving fast. Use optical telescope in space observation, space is somewhat similar to the camera, these bright “star chain” that some may astronomical satellite image is overexposed , a vast expanse, resulting in the observed difficulties. Some observations for faint objects, single exposure time is very long , if there are bright stars in the fast-moving satellites have been , will form a very bright line on the astronomical image , process is very cumbersome, have a significant impact on the quality of the observation.
However, the biggest problem encountered by optical astronomy is in shooting the weakest and most distant stars. Astronomers are very worried that these satellites will reduce the ability of scientists to catch dangerous small objects that may hit the earth. The field of radio astronomy may not be spared either. Tens of thousands of “Starlink” satellites in low-Earth orbit will occupy a lot of radio wave resources, which will directly affect the radio telescopes that observe high-frequency signals. After the satellite is in the sky, if other frequency bands are used incorrectly, it will interfere with the radio telescope on the earth and affect its normal operation.Although artificial satellites in space are far away from the horizon, they will affect humans on the ground. For example, powerful 5G signals will affect the state of water molecules in nature and affect the weather, and affect weather forecasts based on satellite cloud images. In addition to artificial satellites in space, there is also a large amount of space junk. In addition to the false starlight, the huge number of “Starlink” satellites may also cause more serious problems: causing traffic congestion in low-Earth orbit.Since the first artificial satellite went into the sky in 1957, humans have so far launched nearly 10,000 man-made celestial bodies, but with the passage of time, the number of satellites still in orbit is about 2,000. SpaceX’s Starlink project will eventually launch 42,000 satellites, which will increase the current satellite density by about 20 times. By then, a large number of artificial satellites and space junk will float in this area, which may cause serious congestion in near-Earth space.With the yearning for the global high-speed, low-cost satellite Internet, and the expectation of an upgraded version of wireless Internet life in the future, the Starlink project was born under the design and promotion of SpaceX. The desire to expand the boundaries of science and technology is wonderful, but the problems that continue to arise in reality should also attract the attention of SpaceX and the US government. When the “Starlink” satellites rise into space and gradually form a giant dome network, people will eventually see that the artificial starlight shining above the earth is sprinkling happiness or hidden danger…