Elon Musk details next-generation Starlink satellites designed to be more powerful than previous ones

The next generation of Starlink satellites will be bigger and more powerful, designed to provide internet access to remote areas of the world, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. The billionaire recently discussed details of the Starlink Gen2 system on the popular YouTube show Everyday Astronaut. In the 32-minute clip, Musk reveals that SpaceX has already produced the first Starlink 2.0 satellite. The next-generation satellite is 7 meters long and weighs about 1.25 tons. The Starlink 1.0, by comparison, weighs around 260 pounds. The extra weight makes for a more efficient satellite, according to Musk.

Think of it like how many bits of useful data each satellite can produce,” Musk said in the interview. Starlink 2.0 in terms of payload bits is almost an order of magnitude better than a Starlink 1.0.

As part of its growing megaconstellation of internet satellites, SpaceX first announced a new generation of its Starlink satellites in August 2021, designed to complement the first-generation constellation SpaceX is currently deploying, according to the company.

But heavier satellites are more difficult payloads. Starlink satellites are taken into low Earth orbit aboard a Falcon 9 rocket, but the rocket will not be able to carry Starlink 2.0. Falcon has no volume or mass [pour la] orbit capability needed for Starlink 2.0, Musk said. So while we have scaled down the Starlink satellite, the total mass of the Falcon is not enough to make Starlink 2.0.

Instead, SpaceX is betting on the Starship, a heavy launch rocket that is currently in development but has already suffered from several delays. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been working for months on an environmental review of the Starship program to assess its impact, and the report is due in mid-June, although it has been brought forward several times, much to Musk’s dismay.

We need Starship to work and fly often, otherwise Starlink will be grounded,” Musk said in the interview.

Meanwhile, not everyone is aboard a second-generation Starlink satellite taking off into low Earth orbit. Earlier this year, NASA officials wrote a letter to the FAA expressing concern about Starlink 2.0 and the risk of a collision with several of the space agency’s satellites and spacecraft.

Musk is building a megaconstellation of internet satellites, hoping to launch a staggering total of 42,000 satellites into orbit to provide high-speed internet access to remote areas of the world. So far, SpaceX has about 2,300 working Starlink satellites that have been put into orbit.

Satellites are already receiving criticism from a number of sources, including a group of researchers in China who recently wrote an article on ways to destroy satellites if they start to pose a national threat.

Starlink’s potential to help the US military raises concerns

A recent article in the official journal of the Chinese armed forces suggested that the international community should be on high alert for the risks associated with the Starlink satellite internet system, as the US military could use it to take over the world. The article came a day before SpaceX’s launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, which took off on May 6 from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center, carrying 53 Starlink Internet satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO).

The article in China Military Online, the official news site affiliated with the Central Military Commission (CMC), China’s top national defense organization led by President Xi Jinping himself, notes SpaceX Starlink’s role during the war. Russian-Ukrainian, where Elon Musk provided Starlink terminals to re-establish communications in parts of the country where Internet or telephone connection had ceased after the bombing by Russian troops.

Starlink was the only non-Russian communication system still functioning in parts of Ukraine after the invasion, said SpaceX founder Elon Musk. However, there were also reports of Starlink helping the Ukrainian Armed Forces with precision strikes against Russian tanks and positions, which Chinese military observers did not miss:

During the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, SpaceX provided high-speed internet services to Ukraine by donating tons of satellite communication devices. In addition to supporting communication, Starlink, as experts have estimated, can also interact with drones and, using metadata and facial recognition technology, may have already played a role in US military operations. Ukraine versus Russia.

SpaceX has decided to increase the number of Starlink satellites from 12,000 to 42,000 – the uncontrolled expansion of the program and the company’s ambition to use it for military purposes should put the international community on high alert.

Starlink helps Ukraine fight Russia

Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance unit Aerorozvidka used Starlink to monitor and coordinate drones, allowing soldiers to fire anti-tank weapons accurately at the target. Only high system data rates can provide the required stable communication. “We are using Starlink equipment and connecting the drone team to our artillery team,” an officer from Ukraine’s aerial reconnaissance unit Aerorozvidka told The Times. “If we are using a thermal vision drone at night, the drone needs to connect via Starlink to the artillery guy and create target acquisition,” the official said.

Another notable development was SpaceX’s quick response to a Russian jamming effort targeting its Starlink satellite service, which was appreciated by the Pentagon’s director of electromagnetic warfare. Elon Musk claimed that Russia blocked Starlink terminals in Ukraine for hours on end, after which he also said that after a software update, Starlink was working normally.

and suddenly this [attaque de brouillage russe] is no longer effective. “From an electronic warfare technologist perspective, it’s fantastic and the way they did it brought me to tears,” Dave Tremper, director of electronic warfare at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said in response to Musk’s allegations.

Starlink’s cooperation with the US military

The China Military Online article listed the numerous cases since 2019 in which Starlink cooperated with the US military, which also included the successful data transmission test conducted by the US Air Force (USAF) on March 31:

While Starlink claims to be a civilian program that provides high-speed Internet services, it has a strong military background, as evidenced by the fact that some of the launch sites are built inside Vandenberg Air Force Base and the encrypted interconnection between the satellites. Air Force personnel and fighters were included in their technical verification tests.

In fact, Starlink has repeatedly cooperated with the US military. In 2019, SpaceX received funding from the US Air Force to test the ability of Starlink satellites to connect to military aircraft under encryption; in May 2020, the US military signed an agreement with SpaceX to use Starlink broadband to transmit data over military networks; in October 2020, SpaceX won a $150 million contract to develop satellites for military use; in March 2021, it announced plans to work with the US Air Force to further test Starlink Internet.

Once completed, Starlink satellites can be mounted with reconnaissance, navigation and weather devices to further enhance the US military’s combat capability in areas such as remote sensing reconnaissance, communications relay, navigation and positioning, strike and collision, and space shelter.

Clearly, the military applications of the Starlink program will give the US military a head start on the future battlefield and become an “accomplice” of the United States to continue to dominate space.

SpaceX monopolizes strategic resources in space

Another concern of Chinese military analysts has been the scarcity of frequency bands and orbital slots for satellite operation, which they say is being rapidly acquired by other countries:

Orbital position and frequency are scarce strategic resources in space. Currently, geosynchronous orbit is almost fully occupied, and the race for low-Earth orbit and medium-Earth orbit positions has become more intense. LEO is capable of accommodating around 50,000 satellites, over 80% of which would be carried by Starlink if the program were to launch 42,000 satellites as planned. SpaceX carries out a move of confinement in space to take an advantageous position and monopolize strategic resources.

SpaceX has already become a space “behemoth” controlling an entire independent industrial chain that integrates the manufacture of satellites, the construction of earth stations, the launch and recovery of rockets, as well as the operation and services of satellites. If and when it is deeply connected to unmanned driving, IoT, cloud data and smart city, it will develop into a whole new industry and value chain, give rise to a gigantic Starlink biosphere and monopolize the future space applications market. Monopoly and hegmony are twins. Starlink is likely to be exploited by the hegemony-obsessed United States to plunge the world into another chaos or calamity.

Chinese military observers have repeatedly said that the United States is one step ahead in space – seen as a future battleground by militaries around the world – as it rushes to establish the next generation of military communications network based on Internet capability via satellite.

Sources: Elon Musk interview (video in text), FCC report

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