SpaceX says its Starlink satellite internet can download 100 megabits per second, and 'space lasers' transfer data between satellites

A photo of SpaceX's user terminal, or satellite dish, on a roof. Elon Musk has called such devices "UFOs on a stick" — they're designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of Starlink satellites.SpaceX
  • In private beta testing of its Starlink internet satellites, SpaceX says it has found low latency and high download speeds of 100 megabits per second.
  • "Space lasers" also transferred hundreds of gigabytes of data between two Starlink satellites during a test, the company said.

SpaceX says early tests of its rapidly growing fleet of internet-providing satellites are yielding promising results.

Internal tests of a beta version of internet service from the company's Starlink project show "super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 [megabits] per second," Kate Tice, a SpaceX senior certification engineer, said during a live broadcast of a Starlink launch on Thursday.

"That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games, and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once and still have bandwidth to spare," Tice added.Advertisement

The Starlink initiative eventually aims to send tens of thousands of broadband satellites into orbit, blanketing Earth in affordable, high-speed internet. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that he hopes Starlink will get rural and remote regions online. Already, the company has launched more than 700 satellites.
SpaceX's Starlink-8 mission delivered a ninth batch of internet-beaming satellites into orbit on June 13, 2020.SpaceX via Twitter

Tice also announced that SpaceX recently completed a test of two orbiting satellites that are equipped with inter-satellite links — informally known as "space lasers." This technology enables Starlink satellites to transfer data directly to each other in orbit, instead of beaming it to the ground and back.

"With these space lasers, these Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data. Once these space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world," she said.

She added that Starlink is "well into" the first phase of private beta testing, and plans to roll out a more public test program later this year. The company has already begun reaching out to people who applied to participate in the beta program.

Thursday's launch marked a record-breaking milestone: SpaceX has launched 180 satellites in just one month — the fastest satellite-launch rate in history. After launching at least 300 more satellites, the company plans to boot up Starlink more fully.Advertisement

"For the system to be economically viable, it's really on the order of 1,000 satellites," Musk said in May 2019.

From there, SpaceX plans to keep building toward a floating internet backbone that would offer ultra-high-speed web access to most of the planet. All in all, the company has sought government permission to put a total of 42,000 satellites into orbit to form a "megaconstellation" around Earth.

Dave Mosher contributed reporting.Advertisement