What is Starlink?

Starlink, a constellation of thousands of small satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) has been boosted into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on June 3rd 2020. SpaceX is an aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company founded by Elon Musk in 2002. This time, instead of astronauts, the rocket carried 60 Starlink satellites to fill out a constellation of 482 broadband-network low-earth-orbiting satellites.

The small satellites work by flying around the Earth in low orbit, passing off connection between one another to ensure consistent service is provided to ground stations. This is, in theory, going to be faster than fibre optic internet, as the signal speeds are faster through space than when traveling through glass.

SpaceX projects a constellation of 12,000 Starlink satellites to provide low-cost, high speed broadband connectivity to customers globally. They’ll be offering a service to customers who don’t currently have reliable or quality access due to their remote location and other sectors like airplanes, ships, cars.

Elon Musk has stated that Starlink’s beta service will initially be made available this year to customers in Canada and North America, with additional service expansion to other parts of the world next year, 2021. Ultimately, the longer term goal is to complete the project by 2027.

It’s also worth noting that Elon Musk has already started filing patents for SpaceX. According to a recent article, SpaceX filed 22 patents in 2019, 18 of them for Antennas.

What is Apple-Fi?

Apple is working on satellite technology called Apple-Fi, a ‘’new internet’’ that will be beamed down from the sky, giving customers powerful connectivity from anywhere in the world to devices like Iphones, Ipads and Macs. It is likely that Apple will launch between 1,400 and 3,000 satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

According to a news article from December 2019, Apple have hired a team of aerospace engineers along with satellite and antenna designers. Apple filed a US patent for their satellite technology back in August 2015.

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However, it’s worth noting that Apple’s satellite building project is still in an early phase and could even be abandoned. If that happened, it’s still unknown what the plans for Apple’s satellites would be. In addition to that, it is unclear if Apple wants to develop and deploy its own Apple-Fi constellation in LEO or if it just wants to put in place its own on-the-ground equipment that could access existing satellites already launched by firms like SpaceX.

SpaceX and Apple aren’t the only ones with plans for “space internet”. Amazon, Facebook, Samsung, Boeing and Google, among others, are executing plans and starting to launch satellites of their own to have their own networks in the sky. That said, SpaceX and its Starlink satellite constellation hold the lead in this space race.

From time to time, ground-breaking technological innovations displace established industries, and the space arena is currently one of the biggest of these “disruptive technologies”.

According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch predicts the space industry could grow to $2.7 trillion by 2040, nearly triple Morgan Stanley’s forecast of $1.1 trillion.

With the space sector currently booming — even during the pandemic -, and industry funding continuing to rise, Hatchworks are keeping it in their sights and will continue to monitor developments in the space industry closely.

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Heading up the group’s R&D activities for Hatchworks.

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