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The Growth of the SpaceX Starlink


This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Martin Armstrong


1,919 Starlink satellites are currently orbiting the Earth, according to the site Spacexstats which uses SpaceX API data. This means that SpaceX has increased the number of its internet satellites by over 185 percent in the past 18 months. In the United States, Starlink is expected to provide high-speed internet to the approximately 60 million people living in rural and remote areas. And in the rest of the world, too, the company founded by Elon Musk is likely to have its sights set primarily on areas with poor broadband connections.


The latest application of the system has been to provide internet access in Ukraine during the Russian invasion. Following a plea from Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Fedorov via Twitter on Saturday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk responded saying: "Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route." The terminals are satellite dishes which are used to communicate with the Starlink’s constellation of low earth orbit satellites. Yesterday, Fedorov tweeted a photo of a military truck filled with these terminals, saying: "Starlink — here. Thanks, @elonmusk".


While this is a great example of the value of the project, according to a report by Spektrum.de, researchers at the University of Warsaw have tested whether Starlink impedes observation of the night sky for the Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego - it appears that it does. In the ZTF's images, the mini-satellites are visible as streaks. "If stripes were found on only 0.5 per cent of the images at the end of 2019, they were about 18 per cent in August 2021." According to the article, there is a small chance that astronomers could miss important observations, such as near-Earth asteroids, due to degraded images.


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