Starlink has started launching satellites to Earth's polar orbit equipped with laser crosslinks. The plan is to maximize internet connection in remote areas such as Alaska, and minimize the need for ground stations.
SpaceX plans to launch all Starlink satellites with laser crosslinks starting next year, but the recent 10 satellites that launched aboard the company's Transporter-1 rideshare on January 24 are SpaceX's first operational ones.
These are the company's first satellites heading to polar orbit, after gaining approval on January 8 from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The news was shared in true Elon Musk style, via Twitter, where he posted comments stating "All sats launched next year will have laser links. Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are v0.9."
All sats launched next year will have laser links. Only our polar sats have lasers this year & are v0.9.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2021
In another recent tweet, Musk responded to a post saying SpaceX had launched the first satellites to polar orbit to provide internet service in Alaska, in which he said "These also have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles."
For the time being, residents living in Alaska will benefit from SpaceX's Starlink laser link satellites, with plans to expand globally, as the company had explained in its application to the FCC.
These also have laser links between the satellites, so no ground stations are needed over the poles— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 25, 2021
These laser links enable satellites to share communication between each other without needing the assistance of ground stations in remote areas — ultimately expanding the range of internet availability in hard-to-reach areas such as Alaska. Latency is also reduced as the number of hops between satellites and ground stations is minimized.
SpaceX has been testing out its satellite lasers for a while, and in September last year, the company explained that "Once these space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world," as Space News reported.