A new generation of low-flying satellites promises an “Internet from space”, that will be able to cover even remote regions around the world. Computer scientists at ETH Zurich are proposing a novel network design that could double the network capacity of such systems.
Satellites do not yet play a major role in the world’s Internet infrastructure. However, this may soon be set to change. Within the next decade, a new generation of satellites could lay the foundations for an “Internet from space”, believes Ankit Singla, professor at ETH Zurich’s Network Design & Architecture Lab. His team is investigating how to improve the performance of large-scale computer networks, including the Internet.
Exploiting advances in cost-cutting technologies in the space sector, the new satellite systems would use thousands of satellites instead of the tens of satellites used in past systems. These satellites could then be linked to each other via laser light to form a network. The coverage provided by these satellites would reach remote regions that currently have no or very limited access to the Internet, since they are not or only poorly connected to the intercontinental fibre-optic cables that power today’s Internet.
The race for the Internet of the sky
The capabilities of the LEO satellites have triggered a new, contested “space race”, with heavyweights such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon throwing their hats into the ring. These companies are developing large-scale satellite constellations with thousands to tens of thousands of satellites. These would orbit the Earth at speeds of 27,000 km/h at a height of around 500 km (geostationary satellites: 35,768 km).
Source: “A new network design for the “Internet from space”, Florian Meyer, ETH Zurich news