Starlink is a LEO satellite constellation being developed by the company SpaceX. The goal of Starlink is to deliver high-speed broadband internet using FSO technology to locations where access has been unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable.
Starlink is currently the largest satellite constellation in space and is constantly growing. SpaceX wants the constellation to provide complete global coverage at low altitude which would require over 30,000 satellites of which 12,000 have already been approved by the FCC. Starlink filings in October 2019 with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) suggests Starlink could grow to 42,000 satellites. To put this in perspective there are roughly 2,000 total satellites in Earth’s orbit and only 9,000 have been launched historically.
SpaceX has two phases planned for the launching of the satellites in the Starlink constellation. The first phase will consist of 4425 satellites at an altitude between 1,110 km to 1,325 km and at an inclination of 53 to 91 degrees. The second phase will consist of 7,518 satellites at an altitude near 328 to 580 km with inclination angles of 42, 48, and 53 degrees. Starlink is targeting service to the Northern U.S. and Canada in 2020 and hopes to rapidly expand to global coverage of the populated world by 2021.
After the first launch of 60 satellites, viewers noticed a bright string of lights in the sky. This has raised concerns with many astronomers and other researchers about how much a constellation of this size would affect visibility or images taken from highly sensitive telescopes. SpaceX is currently taking measures to reduce the brightness of its satellites including using an experimental black coating to reduce reflectivity.