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Space-based Internet vs Satellite Internet

Space-based Internet_071923A
[Space-based Internet - Interesting Engineering]


- Overview

Space-based internet and satellite internet both use satellites to send and receive data, but space-based internet is faster and can work globally. 

Here are some more differences between space-based and satellite internet:

  • Connectivity: Space-based internet can provide better connectivity to underserved and remote areas.
  • Latency: Traditional satellite internet can have high latency due to the long distances that signals must travel.
  • Speed: Starlink, a space-based internet service, advertises speeds of up to 150 Mbps, which can be faster than many rural internet options. However, Starlink's latency is 43 ms, which can affect activities like online gaming.
  • Capacity: As the customer base grows, satellite broadband tends to slow down.
  • Geographical coverage

Starlink can be used to access the internet in areas where land lines and cellular networks are unavailable. 


- Space-based Internet

Space laser communication, also known as optical or free-space communications, uses modulated laser beams to send and receive information between two points. It can be fully in space or in a ground-to-satellite or satellite-to-ground application.

Space-based Internet uses the ability of satellites in Earth orbit to send and receive data. It can provide global connectivity from space to places where terrestrial methods cannot reach. 

A space-based Internet typically relies on three main components:

  • Satellites: Historically located in geostationary orbit (or GEO), but increasingly now located in low Earth orbit (LEO) or medium earth orbit (MEO)
  • Ground station: called a gateway, which forwards network data to and from satellites through radio waves.
  • Radio Signals: Transmitting Internet Data Through the Vacuum of Space

Satellites send and receive signals, which are routed to your Internet service provider and then to your home's Internet modem.

Starlink is a service from SpaceX that provides high-speed internet available almost anywhere on Earth. Starlink uses radio signals to transmit network data rather than through cables. Ground stations on Earth broadcast signals to satellites in orbit, which can then relay the data back to users on Earth.


- Space Laser Communication

Here's some information about space laser communication:

  • Fast data transmission: Laser communication can transfer data at speeds of up to several gigabits per second, which is faster than the radio frequencies used for communication today. NASA says that laser communication can transmit up to 100 times more data back to Earth than current radio frequency systems.
  • Data encoding: Data is encoded onto laser light, which has shorter wavelengths than radio, so more information can be transmitted per second.
  • Optical communication: Satellites send information to Earth via laser signals, or invisible light signals.


[More to come ...]

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