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Starlink Part I – Introduction

We’ve got a series of articles lined up for you all about the hot topic of Starlink in Ukraine.

According to the latest statistics, there are 18 000 officially registered Starlink terminals in Ukraine, which makes us think that knowledge of this product is becoming a standard requirement for Network Engineers. The trend is quite new in Ukraine and, fun fact, Starlink was not so popular back in June 2022, when Mykhailo Fedorov, vice prime minister and minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, tweeted that Starlink Ukraine received an operator license in Ukraine.

To continue, as Starlink’s popularity is expanding rapidly, we decided to prepare an interesting article for you, which will serve as an introduction to Starlink, however, trust us, it is a complex topic to fit into one article, so expect a series of articles about it, rather than only this single one.

To start with, we will go through the topic step by step from the generic information to some specific details about configuration and usage examples of Starlink and will try to understand what Network Engineers can expect and how to deal with the “Internet from the sky”.

Most probably you have already seen a Starlink dish somewhere in the field. This large pizza-sized dish located on the ground or on top of your house does a great job to deliver Internet to your location. Just imagine, a satellite orbiting 550 kilometres outside Earth’s atmosphere and moving around 27000 kilometres per hour. The small dish can continuously steer the beam and switch between satellites in approximately every 4 minutes.  

Before we dive into the OSI model let’s take a look at the solution components. The solution can be divided into 3 main components: a ground station, a satellite, and a dish (user terminal).

Ground station

The ground station is the place where the signal received through the fibre converts into a wireless signal and vice versa. Ukraine does not have its Starlink ground station. The nearest one is located in Poland, Lithuania, and Turkey. If you are wondering what it looks like, below you can find a photo of the ground station located in Turkey (40.78883190316096, 29.50935872005835)

A typical ground station right now has nine 2.86m antennas in a 400 sqm fenced-in area. Usually, SpaceX prefers to place them near big data centres, and you can probably guess why. 

Satellite

According to the publicly available information, Starlink already passed the number of 2500 satellites. Site n2yo.com shows 2779 active satellites and this number is constantly growing. 

There are multiple versions of satellites. From test versions (before v1.0) to some planned ones (v2.0). In the current release (v1.0 and v1.5) Starlink satellites are responsible for the signal retransmission between a user terminal and a ground station. For v2.0 SpaceX is planning to introduce lasers for inter-satellite communication. 

Find some technical characteristics below:

Altitude – ~550km

Mass – ~260 kg (for v1.0) and ~295 (for v1.5)

Capacity – ~ 18Gbps

Finally, the cool thing about Starlink is that websites starlink.sx or satellitemap.space enable you to track satellites and their gateways in real time.

Of course, to use Starlink you do not need to know all these details, just unpacking and connecting the dish is enough. However, if you are a true engineer – stay tuned 😊


Author

  • Oleksandr Shcherbyna, Enterprise Network Architect

    Oleksandr is Enterprise Network Architect and CCIE with 15+ years of experience under his belt. He's a tech-savvy professional with a diverse background, having served in various capacities, from NOC Engineer at a Service Provider to Cisco Advanced Services Engineer. He's a Cisco DNA and SDN wizard, with unparalleled expertise in these cutting-edge technologies. Oleksandr is a Enterprise Network Architect at GREENNET, Oleksandr brings a wealth of knowledge and practical experience to the table.

    oleksandr@greennet.ge Oleksandr Shcherbyna, Enterprise Network Architect

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