SpaceX Shows Eye Popping Change In Rocket Landing Video Quality Courtesy Starlink

Starlink May 2021 launch
A SpaceX Starlink launch from May 2021. Image: SpaceX

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SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service is rugged enough to withstand a rocket landing boasted the company earlier today as part of its latest announcement. SpaceX has opened Starlink up for maritime customers, as it allows them to order its internet connectivity equipment for a variety of uses such as coverage on luxury boats and oil rigs. Today's announcement came hours after SpaceX's first Starlink launch for the second half of this year which saw the company push the boundaries of its Falcon 9 rocket yet again as it launched yet another stack of internet satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO).

SpaceX Uses Its Own Fleet Of Droneship As Case Study To Demonstrate Starlink's Benefits

The key points from today's announcement demonstrated the massive difference in video quality that SpaceX achieved through Starlink from its drone ships that are used to recover the first stage boosters of its Falcon 9 rocket lineup at sea and the costs that the internet service allowed the company to save.

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The latter came in the form of a brief case study uploaded on SpaceX's website that compared the costs of regular satellite internet with Starlink. As opposed to other operational satellite internet services, that use spacecraft in higher geostationary orbits, Starlink uses orbits at much lower altitudes, which makes transferring data between its dishes or terminals and the satellites easier and faster given that a sufficient number of satellites are in orbit.

A key improvement that SpaceX was able to demonstrate with Starlink was the cost of providing internet coverage to its ships. The company not only broadcasts its rocket landings live, but it also monitors the vehicles in real-time and gathers data about a myriad of factors such as their telemetry and health. SpaceX revealed that prior to installing Starlink, it had to pay close to ~$17,000* per vessel for weak internet coverage, and it has brought this down by roughly 70% to now stand at $5,000 per vessel.

SpaceX's monthly internet costs before and after Starlink. Image: SpaceX

Not only was Starlink able to let it drastically cut down on costs, but it also enabled it to operate its fleet of ten drone ships and recovery vessels safely and efficiently outlined the company. In addition to its drone ships, which are built for rocket landings, SpaceX also has other ships in its fleet such as those that are responsible for transporting astronauts back to shore once they return from the International Space Station (ISS) on its Dragon spacecraft.

The aerospace company explained that the complex nature of its operations requires operators to remotely pilot the drone ships from land and delays in data transmission make controlling the ships and maintaining an awareness of the surrounding environment tricky - in addition to introducing delays in communications with support vessels nearby. Another key drawback of traditional satellite internet was the inability to withstand the extreme vibrations from a rocket lading, which has often resulted in the live feed (also during live streams) being cut off just as the rocket hits the ship's surface.

With Starlink, all these difficulties have eased, explained SpaceX, as the internet service's latency of 50 milliseconds is vastly superior to the 1-2 second latency of other systems. Latency is the time that it takes for a packet of information to travel from and back to an internet user and lower values improve connectivity and coverage.

Finally, Starlink's maximum download speed of 40Mb/s for its drone ships is nearly double what was previously available on the ships. Additionally, and more importantly, Starlink was able to improve download throughput, which measures the amount of data transferred in real life, by a staggering 5,900% on the drone ships - a no small feat, but one explained by the close proximity and higher density of the LEO satellites.

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As part of its reveal, SpaceX also shared footage from a Starlink launch late last month that used Starlink to transmit the company's '"best landing video to date" according to its chief Mr. Elon Musk. The video had shown the booster in detail and the feed did not cut off as the rocket landed -  as opposed to the company's launch earlier today that saw the feed cut as the Falcon 0 touched the drone ship and not resume broadcasting later on.

Here's the with and without Starlink comparison according to SpaceX:

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