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SpaceX’s Starlink: Global maritime coverage will be possible by mid-2022

Elon Musk shared some good news for the maritime community this week – Starlink broadband satellite constellation will have global maritime coverage by mid-2022.

Recently a Twitter user told the business magnate and SpaceX founder –

Global maritime coverage will be possible once SpaceX launches more satellites equipped with Inter-satellite communication laser links. The company launched a fleet of satellites with lasers on November 13, 2021.

This forms part of the company’s plan for the broadband constellation, a plan which includes deploying over 12,000 internet-beaming satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

During Phase 1 SpaceX plans to launch satellites into five orbital shells, which are the ‘roads’ where fleets of Starlink satellites operate in a fixed circular orbit at a specific altitude. The company is currently working on filling out Shell 2 and Shell 4.

According to an article on the November 13 mission, called Starlink Group 4-1, SpaceX deployed the first fleet of satellites into Shell 4 which will have 1,584 satellites divided into 72 orbital planes with 22 satellites in each plane operating at an inclination of 53.2° and altitude of 540-kilometres.

The laser links will enable SpaceX to provide low-latency, high-speed broadband internet because light travels faster in the vacuum of space than through fibre-optic cables used by traditional internet infrastructures.

“Inter-satellite laser communications means Starlink can carry data at speed of light in the vacuum all around Earth before touching ground,” Musk explained, “Over time, some amount of communication can simply be from one user terminal to another without touching the Internet,” he said.

All future Starlink satellites will be equipped with communication lasers that will enable high- speed internet with low-latency. Currently, the constellation generates internet download speeds ranging between 100Mbps to 200Mbps (megabits per second). With the laser links, latency will decrease to 20ms (milliseconds) and the coverage will expand across the globe, enabling mobile service for users who would like to connect to the Starlink network while camping aboard an RV or while cruising aboard sea-going vessels.

This means that pretty soon, you will never have to log off, no matter how remote your destination is. You can stay safe and connected, are able to download daily weather updates and short emails from family and friends and also share your experiences online.

However, scientific evidence has linked being online for extended amounts of time along with social networks to sleep disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts and actions, so having some time off the grid might just be what the doctor ordered.

The question remains, could products like Starlink spoil the unique solace that comes with ocean sailing and its limited external input?

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