Elon Musk announces next-gen Starlink satellites to orbit closer to Earth

    WORLD  12 June 2024 - 18:15

    To further drive down latency for Starlink, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk plans on launching "next-generation" satellites that orbit closer to Earth.

    "The current Starlinks are at 550 kilometres (in orbit). And the next generation will be 350," he said over the weekend while using Starlink to live stream himself playing Diablo IV, PCMag reports.

    Starlink harnesses orbiting satellites to beam internet data to the ground. SpaceX recently touted decreasing the median latency for Starlink users to 28 milliseconds, but to cut that down even more, Musk wants to physically shorten the distance between the satellites and Earth.

    “Speed of light is the one thing that we cannot overcome,” he said during the live stream. “So the up-down, up-down for a packet to bounce through space to a satellite to the ground and then back again is currently about 8 milliseconds. So you can’t beat the 8 milliseconds. Future versions of Starlink will be at a lower altitude, so that will be probably closer to a 5- or 6-millisecond latency.”

    The lower orbits promise to help Musk reach his goal of bringing Starlink’s overall latency for users to under 20 milliseconds, improving the system’s ability to play online games and host video conferencing. “In the next year or two, we should be able to get the Starlink latency below 20 milliseconds,” he added during the live stream. 

    SpaceX has hinted at these next-generation satellites before. In October, the company submitted a filing to the International Telecommunications Union about operating 29,888 satellites — a staggering 19,440 of which would orbit the Earth from 340 to 360 kilometres. 

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