Not everyone is excited about Elon Musks’ Starlink plans as I am. In particular, professional and amateur astrophotographers seemed to have their feathers ruffled a bit by the whole enterprise. According to them, taking pictures like the one you see above this post, well, they could become a thing of the past.
So what is Starlink anyway?
Starlink is an ambitious idea that was born out of the efforts of Elon Musk and his company, SpaceX, which will be able to provide the entire globe with high-speed, broadband internet. The concept uses thousands of small satellites, that unlike other satellite internet providers, will fly very low in Earth’s orbit.
The problem currently with satellite internet is that the satellites of today are over 30,000 miles away from the Earth. This causes a huge latency problem, that is, the time it takes for a packet of data to go from your computer to the satellite and back, and vice versa. As of right now even the fastest satellite internet providers fail big time in many aspects. For example, online gaming is essentially impossible with today’s satellite internet technology.
Musk’s Starlink hopes to change all that. By utilizing small low earth orbit satellites that are only 550km away from the Earth, the latency is reduced dramatically. Estimates say by about 30% at least. By having a grid comprised of thousands of low-flying satellites SpaceX will be able to effectively offer high-speed internet with low latency to anyone, anywhere on the globe, even in remote locations like Antarctica or the desert plains of Africa.
Initial projections estimate that Starlink will be able to provide speeds up to 1-Gigabit for as little as $80 per month. This is extremely fast, I currently pay over $100 per month for 500mbps internet which is half the speed of Gigabit internet. So if Musk is able to pull this off, then I might be one of his first customers!
Other folks aren’t so happy about the operation however. Complaints have been made on social media and more official venues about the impact of all that “space debris” zipping past the Earth. One or two satellites, no big deal, but thousands? For some, this is just too much to bear. Astrophotography across the board has taken offense to this project. They don’t like the idea of their amazing and sometimes epic photos of the night sky being riddled with big white spots all over.
Other people argue that astrophotography is highly post-edited anyways. Just Photoshop out the satellites and stop whining, some say.
Whichever side of the fence you’re on, I still find it hard to not be amazed at some of the innovations Elon’s companies like SpaceX, Telsa, Boring, etc have brought to market. It’s one thing to have a cool idea. It’s much harder to bring that idea to market, and for that Elon, you have my respect!