Random FAQ about Starlink below:
The combination of low latency (20-40ms) and high bandwidth (100+Mbps) has never been available in satellite internet before.
A public beta may start later this year for some users in the northern US, around the 14th launch. Today is the 7th launch of v1 satellites. SpaceX is hoping to do more than two launches per month but haven't reached that pace yet.
The ground stations look like this: https://www.reddit.com/r/SpaceXLounge/comments/gkkm9c/starli...
The user antennas can be seen in that picture; they are the smaller circular things on black sticks. They are flat phased array antennas, and don't need to be precisely pointed like satellite dishes do. They are about the size of an extra-large pizza, so you won't be able to get a Starlink phone.
The user antennas are likely to be quite expensive at first (several thousand dollars). Cost reduction of the user antennas is the biggest hurdle Starlink currently faces. Nobody knows yet how much SpaceX will charge for the antenna or service.
Starlink can't support a high density of users, so it will not be an alternative to ISPs in cities. Rural and mobile use are the important applications. The US military is doing trials with it. Cell tower backhaul may also be a possibility.
Starlink V1 doesn't have cross-satellite links, so the satellites can only provide service while over a ground station. There will be hundreds of ground stations in North America; no information about other regions yet. Starlink V2 is planned to have laser links between satellites, which will enable 100% global coverage 24/7, though local regulations are likely to prevent SpaceX from providing service in many places.
Because the speed of light in a vacuum is 30% faster than in optical fiber, the latency of Starlink over long distances has the potential to be lower than any other option once laser links are available.
Each launch of 60 Starlink satellites has nearly as much solar panel area as the International Space Station. Once SpaceX's Starship is operational they should be able to launch several hundred satellites at once instead of just 60.
Starlink's only current competitor, OneWeb, just filed for bankruptcy after only launching a handful of satellites, and is fishing for acquisition offers. Amazon is also planning something called Project Kuiper but not much is known about it.
Starlink V2 will have 30,000 satellites, requiring hundreds of launches. Even once the initial fleet is launched, SpaceX will still need to maintain the constellation with many launches per year indefinitely.
SpaceX's FCC application has many interesting details: https://licensing.fcc.gov/myibfs/download.do?attachment_key=...
Not to mention the dramatic reduction of hops. My route from the USA east coast to the university of Melbourne in Australia is 30 hops reported by traceroute, with at least as many switches in the way. You could make the same link with only a few satellites.
EDIT: 30 is actually just the default max hops in traceroute, its really 32 hops from me to Melbourne.
- 1-7: Hops within my ISP's in-country network (~4ms total latency)
- 8-10: Hops within my ISP's in-Europe network (~28ms total latency)
- 11: London -> New York (~93ms total latency)
- 12: New York -> Los Angeles (~160ms total latency)
- 13: Transfer in LA from my ISP to AARNet (about the same latency)
- 14: LA to somewhere in NSW (guessing Sydney, 305ms total latency)
- 15-25: Routing within AARNet and Unimelb (319ms total latency)
So most of the latency looks to be attributed to large hops across oceans rather than internal switching. Even if you could narrow it down to London -> NY -> LA -> NSW you'd have 277ms.
9 cr-fra2-be11.x-win.dfn.de (220.127.116.11) 15.360 ms 15.385 ms dfn.mx1.fra.de.geant.net (18.104.22.168) 15.021 ms
10 ae7.mx1.ams.nl.geant.net (22.214.171.124) 21.806 ms dfn.mx1.fra.de.geant.net (126.96.36.199) 15.244 ms ae7.mx1.ams.nl.geant.net (188.8.131.52) 21.707 ms
11 ae9.mx1.lon.uk.geant.net (184.108.40.206) 29.059 ms ae7.mx1.ams.nl.geant.net (220.127.116.11) 21.805 ms ae9.mx1.lon.uk.geant.net (18.104.22.168) 28.933 ms
12 22.214.171.124 (126.96.36.199) 196.613 ms ae9.mx1.lon.uk.geant.net (188.8.131.52) 29.074 ms 29.156 ms
13 184.108.40.206 (220.127.116.11) 196.807 ms et-7-3-0.pe1.wmlb.vic.aarnet.net.au (18.104.22.168) 277.463 ms 22.214.171.124 (126.96.36.199) 196.778 ms
14 188.8.131.52 (184.108.40.206) 277.544 ms et-7-3-0.pe1.wmlb.vic.aarnet.net.au (220.127.116.11) 277.629 ms *
My guess is that there's a private network involved.
If you use AARNet's looking glass  it shows that its route to GEANT's London router goes through Singapore.
They also have a fairly extensive network of dark fiber and leased fiber in Australia.
I suspect they might have an onward wavelength service to London.
Init7's traceroute  shows 5 fewer steps to r1lon2.core.init7.net than my traceroute though and appears to route through r1bsl1 (assuming Basel) instead of Frankfurt.
Perhaps you're in/near Basel and so skip straight to London, circumventing my 8 hops around Zurich?
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabb.it (Californian startup)
So… awfully high how?
Non-Australians, don't get too excited. Those satellites are at 340 miles, so that adds 680 miles of latency (3.66 ms) plus two to three Starlink hops, which cancels out some of that "speed in a vacuum."
The way to get almost c on earth is via direct microwave links.
Outside of HFT, most networks are far from the shortest great circle routes between you and the other end, which further completes the issue.
Regarding cable placement, in some cases it's circuitous. But sometimes not, expecially in 2020.
A satellite directly overhead means you need to travel to that altitude. However, if it’s not overhead light is traveling the hypotenuse of a right triangle where X is the distance to a point underneath the satellite and Y is the altitude of the satellite. That distance is the square root( X^2 + y^2). From there you need to travel to a different base station.
Assuming an ideal path where the satellite is directly between two locations that are 680 miles apart, that adds up to 2 * ( sqrt(340^2 + 340^2) ) ~= 961.7 miles vs 340 + 340 miles, or an added 281.7 miles not 680. In other words 1.414x the distance rather than simply adding 680.
Clearly the earth is not a flat and your very unlikely to be in that situation, but assuming you can reach several satellites at the same time it is likely one of them will be roughly in the direction you want to go.
But line of sight. Short-haul.
However those were fairly low-bandwidth.
Discovering the underlying layer 2 topology of a carrier's network requires inside information and cannot be easily discerned sitting at a computer elsewhere on the internet. You might see two routers that appear to be directly adjacent to each other but it's actually carried as a 10Gbps VLAN across a several-state sized region between two cities many hundreds of km apart, with a lot of intermediate equipment in between.
Medium to large sized ISPs have a very large amount of BSD/GPL/Apache/misc licensed software running to support back end monitoring and provisioning systems. They do occasionally hire software developers to customize things for their environments, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to reach out to the noteworthy ones in your region and try giving them your CV.
Start by installing a BGP deamon on two boxes that share a network and see what you can do :)
Plenty of other resources like irc channels, too.
There are other ways of acquiring layer 1 data which are labor intensive and involve the equivalent of filing FOIAs for construction permits with local city and county agencies, etc.
Big facilities based ISPs that have a lot of fiber out there underground and aerial make extensive use of GIS software. Their construction groups will have their own full time GIS staff positions.
Most of the interesting stuff can be setup using Linux, OpenvSwitch, FRR/ BIRD, network namespaces/ VRF and more. It is all in FOS Software - so more or less zero cost. Of course, you will not learn how to configure a Catalyst Switch that way. For some stuff, there are virtual appliances that you can spin up with KVM/ QEMU but most of the enterprise stuff has to be bought. Again, at that time, you will have a solid understanding of what should be happening and will know what to look for in the documentation. The rest is field experience with firmware bugs, methods how to approach some problems and syntactic sugar of the particular equipment. At least that is my view.
Of course you can hide a router by not decrementing the TTL as it passes through your network at layer 3, you can hide the IP by not responding with ICMP expired messages
An ICMP could well return on a different path to the direction it was sent, with a path like this
Host -> R1 -> R2 -> R3 // R3 -> R4 -> R5 -> R1 -> Host
Traceroute will only show the outbound route, so you should traceroute from both ends
The latency will also be affected by ICMP generation on the router, which could be delayed, rate limited, dropping, etc.
Doing a quick traceroute to a host of mine in Sydney, from London, shows
5ms to i-91.ulco-core02.telstraglobal.net 18.104.22.168
82ms to i-10104.unse-core01.telstraglobal.net 22.214.171.124
132ms to i-10601.1wlt-core02.telstraglobal.net 126.96.36.199
277ms to i-10406.sydo-core04.telstraglobal.net 188.8.131.52
To get the exact map I could talk to Telstra (in this case I peer with telstra directly in London)
Or I could look at telstra's map, which ddg helpfully tells me is at
Sadly the map doesn't work very well, more form over function
ddging 1wlt-core02.telstraglobal.net returns this though
Which tells me 1wlt is LA. unse will thus be east coast U.S. I'd have expected routing via Singapore.
There's no way to know which way the traffic is actually going without asking Telstra.
I have 2 ethernet circuits from the UK to Washington DC, to me it looks like two layer 2 1500MTU circuit. Only by talking to the provier can I work out which circuits it actually travels on trans atlanticly. It's supposed to be separate, but latency changed by 2ms a few days ago. Asked them about it, and there was a failure in their network, they rerouted in a few hundered milliseconds (which isn't good as now both diverse circuits run via the same equipment, thus any issues like another 100ms outage will cause an impact)
Buying two mpls circuits (assuming they are that) from the same provider is a single point of faliure, your only real redundancy is your handover at each site, if they are separate.
You're better of buying an optical link, then you are also not sharing bandwidth with anyone else. The cost isn't that different in my experience, but might be for an trans-Atlantic circuit. IPSEC over normal internet connections with multiple isp's is a better choice.
However I know reality and contracts never meet, unfortunately in a large disfunctional organization there are other considerations in circuit procurement than technical requirements.
As for internet circuits, I had two ISPs in NY on two separate paths, which is great. Something went wrong about a month ago, and the routing from one of the ISPs changed, meaning that we were back to a single point of failure who we have no business relationship with
This was designed by the partner, contract signed by us, the whole solution paid by us, without consulting any network engineer on our side until 1 week before it was supposed to be implemented. We proposed two different solutions that would cost less than 1/20 of the cost their solution was costing us ($20k/month), while providing real redundancy (yet to be implemented, though some SPOFs solved by now). Never enjoyed outages as much as this as we got to explain why their solution was so bad each time.
The third party consulting firm are long gone, as are the people high up in the company who brought them in.
Now there's new people high up who come up with the same problems, but in a slightly different way, arguing how their basket is far better than the previous basket.
That's basically a good portion of the internet.
Opto equipment adds practically no delay as they just forward the light without looking at it or processing it. There might be redundant paths that it can switch between if there's a fiber cut.
Hopefully a lot! Fun fact, IPv4 and IPv6 have a maximum network size. Because of the TTL field in v4 (renamed max hops in v6), a path through an IP network can never be more than 255 hops long.
It’s just that if you do that and you do introduce a loop the packets will keep looping and the network will very quickly overflow.
With satellite internet taking off, and actual interest in extraterrestrial colonies from e.g. NASA and SpaceX, I think we need a proper space communication protocol. Maybe it can all be solved in L2, but I think we will soon be looking at 255 hops the way we look at the limited address space of v4.
I wrote a short seminar paper on DTN protocols as an undergrad in '09, so thanks for the trip down memory lane!
The true story is that a company (spread networks) spent many millions building a low latency fiber path between chicago and nyc. Two guys built a lower latency radio network that connected a number of cell towers together and were the first to market rendering that cable obsolete. Within months other people had radio networks up to try to compete (to give an idea about how competitive that space is).
One thing to add is that Starship should enable 400 satellites per launch:
Put a 100 tonne tungsten rod into space (cost ~$10m), or more likely some cheaper metal. Maybe 10m long with 25cm radius. Stick a cold gas reaction control system, maybe some gridfins and a guidance package. Put it in orbit, Put some ablative on the leading edge. Once in orbit the cold gas system slows the weapon to put it on target. The gridfins and cold gas thrusters control the guidance. The gridfins wouldn't work for long before the burnt off, but recessed cold gas thrusters could continue to work. Ionisation and intense heat would stop any optical sensors or outside guidance, so aiming it would be problematic.
A kinetic warhead with a mass of 100tonnes going at sub orbital speeds (say 7000m/s) would have 2.45x10^12 joules, which is around 0.58kt of tnt. If I remember correctly once it is going past a critical speed the penetrator and target act like fluids and the rod would penetrate a depth based on the relative density of the two materials time the length. Tungsten is about 6 to 12 times as dense as rock, so it might go through 60 to 120m meters of rock.
Non-nuclear, pretty hard to detect or stop. Competitive in price with cruise missiles. Accuracy could be a problem.
Using starship to launch rods that immediately come down on people instead of loitering in space sounds like a much safer use.
I call the opposite, it is extremely easy to detect and track their orbits, a single personal computer can probably track them all and calculate the potential strike point over points in orbits.
Any attempt to deviate from an existing low earth orbit is extremely energy intensive. It also can't strike anywhere - it can be more than 24 hours before its in position over the location it wants to be.
The orbital period for low Earth orbit is closer to 1 hour than 24, and you further reduce that to only a dozen or so minutes by spacing out rods over the orbit... Much like starlink satellites.
Keep in mind an orbit does not cover all of the Earth surface. And unless the target is on the equator, there is no low earth orbit that can maintain it's path over a target consistently.
But for detection, Is that actually easy? I don't know much about it, would it be done optically, or is there a better way? Are there concealment strategies? How about say painting the satellite black?
Fun to think about but I also hope they don't build these things.
A point of clarification, submarines are the only nuclear platform with "undisclosed locations." It is trivial for a nation-state to observe the construction and fitment of a fixed ICBM placement, or track the movements of a truck/rail mounted launcher.
I'm sure U.S. at least tries to keep track of Russian mobile launchers, but to which degree it is successful we wouldn't know for sure. And pretty certain Russia would have problems live tracking launch vehicles (if the USA had any).
50% faster than light in fiber, fiber is 30% slower.
PS: Thanks for the summary and NO Starlink phone. I have gotten sick and tired of people jumping to conclusion suggesting Starlink taking over ISP and Mobile Network. And that is even on HN.
Are you saying 700mbps is slow? Or is that all the bandwidth that the single link can provide (meaning 700 divided by the number of subscribers)? Living in a fly over state, I was lucky at first to get much more than 10mbps. Spectrum has now provided service to my area and I can get 400mbps and am super happy.
I'll be surprised if this doesn't shrink. I worked for a company in the mid-2000s that had some pretty cool IP which effectively shrank a briefcase-sized BGAN terminal down to a Pocket PC (pre iPhone days!) with Pocket PC-sized antenna strapped on the back.
The satellites were never the challenging part; cross-links and the user terminal were always the most difficult pieces.
I thought they were redesigning the satellites to be nearly invisible from the ground so as not to disrupt astronomy? Or is that later launches?
Isn't this the 8th? Jesse the Engineer said it was, too. The stage 1 is also on its 5th mission, so rad!
Edit: stage 1 recovery success, and that was perhaps the clearest image of it landing I have ever seen and I've been watching since 2015! Also, I miss the shots of LOX images in zero G they used to do back then.
There was also a full 60 satellite stack of v0.9 satellites that aren't counted towards the "production" constellation.
Now I remember this launch last year around this time, and some of them were not able to maintain their orbit, but weren't the majority of them operational?
So if the Starlink launches happen twice a month, the carbon footprint from the fuel would be at least an order of magnitude smaller than that of a single long haul route of an airline.
Building the satellites and the rocket (including the expendable second stage) is obviously pretty carbon intensive too, but fuel is probably what you were thinking about when posing this question.
TL;DNR: If you take methane out of the atmosphere and you put it back in the atmosphere, the carbon footprint is neutral.
Considering the pay-over-time model that SolarCity implemented, should we not expect the same here? Assuming the user antenna can be removed, it can be rented, just like a modem or router.
Relying on the antennas having a long ‘useful life’, it may not be too prohibitive if rented out.
People who live in a really remote plate and sign up for a 24 month term for some barely-usable VSAT service are usually disappointed to find out how firmly they're locked into the contract, when somebody builds a WISP in their area.
I would not be surprised if there's a terminal rental charge or 12/24/36 month contract terms offered.
Considering the pay-over-time model essentially bankrupted SolarCity, forcing Tesla to buy them out, for which Tesla are being sued by shareholders...I'm not sure that's the model to resurrect.
side note: not related but the Eccentric Orbits book about Iridium was really good imo.
Or if it was scale/can't see it.
Which I suppose even so, that ship would have to be unrealistically massive to have problems flying through one of the gaps.
One of Starlink's competitors OneWeb was able to aquire a user antenna which is apparently a breakthrough in cost reduction at $15 . I would assume the manufacturer has a contractual agreement with OneWeb, but I can imagine that Starlink could develop a similarly priced antenna with it's greater resources.
Greg Wyler, the founder of Oneweb, has a history of making bold claims that are not really supported by facts.
Try to ask this in a non-hyperbolic way, I dont want to sound alarmist and I'm no "chem trail" loon. but "Burning up" doesn't just make it magically go away.
I haven't seen articles on this, so either its being ignored or it's not an issue. :-/
I hope its the later.
I wonder what the stats of Uranium/Plutonium we let "burn up" in the biosphere is compared to stuff we get while cruising through space is...
> An autonomous system (AS) is a collection of connected Internet Protocol (IP) routing prefixes under the control of one or more network operators on behalf of a single administrative entity or domain that presents a common, clearly defined routing policy to the internet.
> Originally the definition required control by a single entity, typically an Internet service provider (ISP) or a very large organization with independent connections to multiple networks.... The newer definition ...came into use because multiple organizations can run Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) using private AS numbers to an ISP that connects all those organizations to the internet. Even though there may be multiple autonomous systems supported by the ISP, the internet only sees the routing policy of the ISP. That ISP must have an officially registered autonomous system number (ASN).
> A unique ASN is allocated to each AS for use in BGP routing. ASNs are important because the ASN uniquely identifies each network on the Internet.
To exchange traffic, providers advertise the IP ranges they can route.
The starter pack for this consists of an AS number (which is fundamentally just a nominal integer identifier for your organisation), an interconnect (either to an internet exchange or a transit provider), and some address space to call your own.
The notability is commercial: StarLink is ready, or at least preparing, to negotiate peering with other providers. That’s a whole other ball game, c.f http://drpeering.net/white-papers/Art-Of-Peering-The-Peering....
There’s also a social angle. I’ve seen folks wearing their ASN like an agency windcheater. Network engineers are tribal.
Can you delve into the possible business models (not military)_ and commercial applications if this remains?
Starlink is seriously this biggest mystery to me about SpaceX's over all trajectory, I find it fascinating but ,my mind doens't conjure up many more thoughts than they'll either be an ISP or work with ISPs to reach a currently unavailable demographic, the nuts and bolts of how are entirely lost on me as I realistically don't understand the Industry.
Alternatively, view these interests (grid-scale batteries, solar panels, underground excavation, autonomous vehicles (cars, rockets, spacecraft), hyperloops, benevolent AGI, low-latency satellite internet &c &c) as essential infrastructure technologies for derisking survival on Mars and even beyond, thereby increasing the likelihood that the humans will survive even the gross mismanagement of their current planet, or a passing Vogon Constructor Fleet, by metastasising across Sector ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha.
Which is to say, that:
> SpaceX's overall trajectory
is a Hohmann transfer orbit, or a nice hot cup of tea.
That's exactly the plot of this movie:
Ehh, all I see is just a guy who grew up on the Internet and behaves as such on both Social Media and in real life; except his story is one where, unlike most of the population, his often seemingly reckless risk taking paid off and now he wants to put his resources to its best use that creates a Legacy that will outlive him according to Dr. Zubrin. Pretty Human if you ask me.
> Alternatively, view these interests...
I'm well aware of that, perhaps latenly in 2007ish and understood it well by ~2013 and I have been part of Mars Society since 2017.
I got an offer to go to Tesla in Supply Chain during Model 3 ramp up, but declined so I could follow up on opportunities that led to me working for Kimbal's businesses for the past year in order to go to SpaceX. I interviewed at the Boca Chica Launch facility in February because I understood all of that and dedicated the last ~4 years of my Life to do that as I understand the imperative of being Multi-planetary. It went well, way better than I expected in fact, but in a post COVID World its just no longer tenable.
I still think by re-focusing on Supply Chain I can try and join Kimbal's Sqaure Root program when it starts to send container garden farms to Mars for future colonization missions, as I have a background in Ag as well as Culinary and I'm still in good with Corporate, my old Team and Management.
Hell, I'll go even further and tell you a big reason I'm a Bitcoiner to this day is because I think its the only currency/monetary system that can actually facilitate a Multi-Planetary Economy. We've had actual initiatives by members of out community petition NASA to put Bitcoin wallets on the Mars rover(s) so we could pilot test this and iterate , but were ultimately rejected. Still undeterred by that let down by NASA, Blockstream has a Satelite system to be able to validate the blockchain and send transaction without the need for a traditional ISP based Internet that allowed us to gain insight as to how it would work with Earth and hopefully apply that data eventually to Mars when the time comes.
But, back to my initial question:
What I meant to ask specifically was: from an ISP POV how do they build a system that can theoretically overcome China's Great Firewall, while simultaneously having a Tesla Factory there that is critical to the overall 'Master Plan,' without invoking the ire of the CCP and having them just take it like they have with Hong Kong?
Do they just deny citizens of the PRC these services and wash their hands of the situation? Can Starlink actually have the means to circumvent the disgusting Panonopticon that's been created with the current Internet, or does the topography of how these systems are built and are routed prevent us from having the ACTUAL Internet we were supposed to have all along despite that? Could the two be so different they simply cannot interact, or does the information suggest it will simply be the same protocol?
The military isn't particularly interesting, for the most part they're just a special case of the ship and plane market segment.
As far as business models having this enables, it's digital land that belongs to SpaceX/StarLink, which doesn't really restrict what sort of business can be run with it. ISPs will have an AS (sometimes more than one), but non-ISP Internet companies sometimes also have an AS. Google for, example has AS15169  and Google Search and Maps and YouTube and everything is served from there. (Ignore Google Fiber as it predates it.)
Wikipedia goes into peering far more elaborately than I, but it would be pure speculation on my part to say anything more elaborate than "StarLink will be an ISP". Elon Musk could give the StarLink receiver hardware away for free and start his own TV channel, having this AS enables that, but doesn't give any indication other than StarLink intends to be on the Internet in a some way. (Not that you'd necessarily need an AS to have a TV channel.)
A number of the earth station filing geographic coordinates, in public FCC documents, correlate with the known location of regen huts for north america's largest dark fiber/DWDM/transport carriers on intercity fiber paths. Such as Centurylink and Zayo. The typical thing to do in this case is that they'll be buying 'lit' circuits from carrier-of-carrier ISPs to reach those IX points.
From this: https://bgp.tools/as/14593#asinfo
Is the new part here that they are advertising prefixes?
Singapore? Any netengs here that can interpret the chicken entrails?
There are links here: https://old.reddit.com/r/Starlink/wiki/index#wiki_-_what_fre...
The data will probably be encrypted, but I think theres a good chance you might be able to get some metadata.
Nothing too fancy for now. Two tiny, I assume test, prefixes (one v4, one v6) that aren't even verified by IRR/RPKI. Happy to see, however, that they peer openly (at least for now).
But yes, they will also have your shipping address, as they are producing the ground antennas in-house.
for instance: https://bgp.he.net/AS12684
But I'm concerned about the light pollution caused by Starlink satellites at night: https://www.unilad.co.uk/science/spacex-to-test-starlink-sun.... If they don't fix it, it would look awful for people who prefer a clean sky. And an average people wouldn't have a mean to mitigate that - it's not like a drone flying on top of your roof and you can shoot it down, it's a set of satellites thousands miles away.
And if the parts of those satellites broke down, I wonder how much SpaceX itself could do to fix them. If the broken satellites end up a space garbage, that reminds me of the film scene in Gravity. This is a problem we already have today, contributed by all aerospace institutions. I guess people are treating it just like any other garbage around us: if it doesn't show in my eye, it's not my problem.
But it's a harder problem than things like metal garbage on the ground, the latter you could recycle, but I don't know if people really recycle a satellite.
Regarding space junk:
These satellites are in low orbits, so if the satellite breaks it will just re-enter the atmosphere and get burned up within a few months or so. I believe they also have a deployable drag device to intentionally de-orbit the satellites at their end of life, or if there's a problem with the satellite.
Is "global" not appropriate here?
but then again I've been hearing that for awhile. Push come to shove moment seemed to be when the FCC said to stop bs'ing about theoratical network speeds in applications for rural broadband grants, I still don't understand how that got submitted..lawyers...
FCC smacking us (article is more than a little generous towards us, thank Ajit Pai's reputation I guess): https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2020/05/elon-musks-promi...
Gwynne saying we might spin it off: https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/6/21126540/spacex-starlink-i...
- To serve as an internet backbone they need to bounce off of ground stations
- In particularly busy areas where they might otherwise have routed traffic up, laterally, down they have to now go up, down resulting in 0.5x local available bandwidth.
- The latency is a few ms higher on long routes when using starlink as a backbone
None of this particularly effects their ability to serve as a consumer ISP. The advantages are still there. Also cross satellite laser links are still the plan as far as the public has been told, just somewhat delayed.
> Gwynne saying we might spin it off: https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/6/21126540/spacex-starlink-i....
A day or two after that statement Elon said that the amount they were thinking of spinning it off right now is "0".
PS. Your use of "us" makes me think you might be an insider, I'm definitely not, but as an outsider it looks like SpaceX has a pretty good chance of pulling this off.
This is the FCC protecting incumbent service providers on the basis that Starlink isn't already widely deployed. They are not claiming that they have any kind of technical analysis that Starlink will not in fact be low-latency (the threshold is a full 100ms, so not incredibly strict). They are claiming that simply because they do not already offer the service they will get lumped in with the high latency geo-stationary sat link providers;
"In the absence of a real world example of a non-geostationary orbit satellite network offering mass market fixed service to residential consumers that is able to meet our 100ms round trip latency requirements, Commission staff could not conclude that such an applicant is reasonably capable of meeting the Commission's low latency requirements, and so we foreclose such applications."
Frankly it's very sad, because the $16 billion in rural broadband grants are the perfect application for Starlink.
The funds are distributed by "multi-round, descending clock auction where bidders will indicate in each
round whether they will bid to provide service to an area at a given performance tier and latency. The auction will end after the aggregate support amount of all bids is less than or equal to the total budget and there is no longer competition for support in any area." 
I think if Starlink was allowed to bid as both a "low-latency" and "high performance" tiers, then at the pricing level they would likely have come in under, they would have wiped the floor with the competition and won a lion's share of that funding. So the FCC appears to be trying to keep them out of the most lucrative tiers to protect the incumbent approach of extremely expensive rural fiber deployments.
IMO a much smarter approach would have been to require some sort of performance bond from every applicant that they will successfully achieve the service levels they are bidding on. It's not like Comcast or Verizon haven't won massive subsidies in the past and then failed to deliver. The approach the FCC is taking (not surprisingly) just limits innovation and wastes taxpayer dollars. Actually in this case the dollars come from customer service fees, but they are effectively taxes.
 - https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DOC-364457A1.pdf
But you're unnecessarily ascribing malice. SpaceX has made some big promises, and if it delivers it deserves to hoover up basically all of that money.
But until the network is real, customers can sign up, and it's just a matter of scaling, a rational actor attempting to genuinely forward the interests of the country may well decide it poses too much risk.
How are those two related? Cross-link will somewhat improve latency, but will have very little if any impact on bandwidth.
The problem with no sat-to-sat traffic is they'll need a crapton of downlink stations, which increases cost substantially. Also, they'll be geographically limited--no service out in the middle of the ocean.
There's a workaround for this, which is to stick a relay station out in the middle of the ocean on a ship that bounces the signal to a satellite closer to land. Expensive, but workable for the right price.
If there's a high enough density of commercial ships, you might be able to piggyback on the user terminals for this purpose. At the same time the military is likely one of the most interested customers and probably wouldn't be thrilled at relying on the typical distribution of commercial ships.
As for the goofy routing: if you were an IPv6 peer they'd announce you to their a large amount of their other peers (normally you don't announce peers to transit or peers - just to customers). This led to lots of sub-optimal routing scenarios and you'd have to ask them to knock it off and treat you like a real peer. So yeah cool you get free transit kinda, but the goofy routing isn't worth it for a lot of folks. This plus their long history of lack of filtering their transit customers and enabling lots of route hijacks really gave them a bad reputation. Their recent news about deploying RPKI is a bit of fake news: it's not real RPKI and doesn't address the issues with their customers.
Wouldn't you just have an inbound filter to only allow HE ASes? Or do you also want to reach other ASes that pay HE for upstream service, but are multi-homed so exist in their own AS?
So for the most part people implement zero or just minimal filters on routes received from peers. They might drop a set of ASNs they consider large that would be indicative of a leak. Some may go the extra distance and even do IRR filtering. But for the most part people are fairly permissive in what they accept from peers
Here's the catch. You announce routes to HE and they're propagating it to networks you don't anticipate. This pulls in traffic from other HE peers you weren't expecting. You don't really have much controls here. You can try to prepend but remember it's the other leaked peers of HE that will generally set a better local pref to HE (by virtue of being a peer) so your prepends won't do anything.
It also depends a lot on what you consider a commercial launcher. In recent history, the Chinese Long March rockets have been dominating the numbers game (around 25 launches last year, vs around 20 Soyuz and 15 Falcon 9s). But the Long March family is a lot more diverse than most rocket families, so they're probably not #1 if you're comparing specific configurations. You also probably don't want to count rockets that missed space and ended up in the middle of a village, which hurts China's totals.
Note though that 2019 was a pretty slow year for SpaceX, they launched almost twice as much in 2018.