You may have seen the terms STARLINK, SpaceX, Elon Musk repeatedly in the media in recent months.

Or you may have seen a very unusual cluster of stars slowly rolling in a row across the night sky.

Author: Jakub Romek


STARLINK is a project of Elon Musk's billionaire US space company SpaceX, which has a big ambition to provide internet connectivity no matter where you are on Earth (and beyond).

He plans to achieve this ambition with a network of up to 12,000 satellites orbiting our planet.

Rocket launch

The first series of satellites were put into orbit in 2019. This was a total of 60 satellites, none of which are orbiting our planet today.

To date, there are a total of 2 300 satellites in Earth orbit, launched by the FALCON 9 rocket in 41 launches.

As well as the number of orbiting bodies, the number of active users of the network is growing. In 2021, sources put the number of users at around 10 000.

In September this year, the figure was already at 700 000.

So everywhere on Earth, you say?

This is indeed the company's vision, however, at the moment the service can be acquired in a relatively limited (if we compare it with the target state) number of locations. The Czech Republic is one of the lucky ones.

As a result, residents of most of the US, parts of Canada, most of Europe and parts of South America can now try STARLINK Internet, with 2023 being the target year for launching the service in most major global locations.

The sad exceptions are the continent of Africa, the territories of the Russian Federation and Belarus, Iran, Afghanistan, Cuba and China, where estimated availability is not reported at all.

It must cost a rocket

If we look at the offer for a potential domestic user, the purchase of the STARLINK set in the STANDARD variant with the self-installation package comes out at CZK 9,100 with a monthly fee of CZK 1,400, while this variant should offer the end user download speeds between 50 - 200Mbps, upload between 10 - 20Mbps, and response time of 20 to 40 ms, according to the company itself.

This makes the service really more worthwhile for users in remote areas mostly reliant on one small provider. At worst, it's at least an interesting alternative to consider.

No negatives?

You know there are, and not a few.

Light smog and space junk

Since its inception, the system has been criticized for light pollution in the night sky, when the "train" of satellites could be observed with the naked eye.

Another area of criticism was the potential risk of very dangerous space debris in the event of a chain collision of satellites.

STARLINK is actively trying to combat both problems. The new generation of satellites launched in August 2020 is already equipped with the VisorSat sunshield, which absorbs solar radiation to a much greater extent than was the case with previous versions of the satellite.

STARLINK seeks to address the issue of space debris by equipping each satellite with its own autonomous propulsion system, which allows the satellite to avoid pre-existing space debris.

Satellites that are decommissioned are gradually deorbited. Due to their low mass amount, they completely disintegrate in the Earth's atmosphere.

Declining quality of service

The current year has also seen increased complaints from existing clients about a noticeable drop in the quality and unpredictability of the service provided, which the company itself says is due to the client base growing faster than the transmission infrastructure.

Star Wars

STARLINK satellites have also been actively involved in the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, helping Ukrainian military forces communicate with each other. All operating costs are covered by SpaceX.


Vision of the future

The whole project should be in its final phase in 2027, which should be significantly aided by a major change in the "means of transport". The Falcon 9 rocket, with a capacity of 60 satellites per ascent, will soon be replaced by a Starship rocket with an estimated payload capacity of up to 400 satellites per ascent.

SpaceX may have overcome the problems in the supply chains caused by the COVID pandemic, but it is far from a winner. The current threat may be posed by a looming global economic recession or a possible military attack on the satellite network itself, as recently threatened by top political leaders in the Russian Federation.