What Is Starlink? SpaceX’s Much-Hyped Satellite Internet Service Explained

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Starlink satellites being dropped into orbit (Credit: SpaceX)

Satellite internet technology has been around for decades. It involves beaming internet data, not through cables, but via radio signals through the vacuum of space. Ground stations on the planet broadcast the signals to satellites in orbit, which can then relay the data back to users on Earth. One of the main existing providers has been HughesNet, which relies on satellites 22,000 miles above the planet.

SpaceX’s system improves on the technology in two notable ways: The company wants to use low-Earth orbiting satellites that circle the planet at only around 300 miles above the surface. The shortened distance can drastically improve the internet speeds while also reducing latency. Second, SpaceX wants to launch as many as 40,000 satellites in the coming years to power the system, ensuring global coverage without service dropouts.

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