High-bandwidth internet in orbit is nothing new; the ISS even has a livestream. But that's in low-earth orbit, well below the geostationary satellites that relay the data. My question concerns satellite internet reaching geostationary orbit (GEO) itself. And by internet access, I mean at least enough bandwidth to do a video call.

More specifically, I'm interested in a near-future case where a team of astronauts take a space elevator from the surface of the Earth up to a station at GEO, then board a ship docked there. Assuming wired internet can't propagate along the elevator, will they ever experience a loss of internet connection at any point along this trip? And if so, could this issue be solved by simply having a relay at the station?

I'm relatively sure there shouldn't be a problem, but I'm not familiar enough with how satellite internet works to be positive.

  • $\begingroup$ Trivial.. There will, of course, be a bit of packet latency, due to the distance. Minimum of some 110ms or so. Good enough for live video or voice, not good enough for truely competitive online gaming. $\endgroup$ – user79911 Oct 31 '20 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Given that geostationary satellites, for example, the Inmarsat constellation, are routinely used specifically for providing internet access, I don't see the point of this question. Minus one for absolute total complete lack of research. This site is not a free-of-charge research service. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 31 '20 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry I wasted your time @AlexP. As I stated in the 2nd sentence of my question, I was aware that geostationary satellites provide internet access. The question was about whether this would work for receivers at or above GEO itself. I researched this beforehand and couldn't find an answer, and I don't appreciate your "absolute total complete" overuse of adjectives belittling my intentions. $\endgroup$ – Gilad M Oct 31 '20 at 14:22
  • $\begingroup$ I am not completely certain that I understand how geostationary satellites are supposed to be able to relay internet traffic and at the same time be unable to use the internet themselves... After all, any difficulty would be double for the hosts using the geostationary satellite as a relay. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Oct 31 '20 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what you mean, but regardless, the question is resolved, and I don't need you to take back your -1 if you didn't like my question. We can drop this and move on to something else. EDIT: ah, okay, now that you edited it I see what you mean. As I said, I don't know much about satellite communications. I assumed what you're saying, but didn't want to overlook anything $\endgroup$ – Gilad M Oct 31 '20 at 14:30

A zoom call to GEO is easily done with current tech.

Rather than give you an exact bandwidth calculation - which will be wrong within a year of technical progress (or an upper bound based on Shannon limit that we may never meet) - I can give you a practical lower bound:

If we can get 2mbps - 6mps of bandwidth to Mars today, bandwidth at GEO must be at least that:

  • Mars is further away than GEO.
  • GEO orbits aren't moving relative to a point on Earth - no need for tracking. Just build a dish and align it to the space station.
  • The devices on Mars are really low power - higher power could get higher throughput.

You need 600kbps for a zoom call. So at an absolute minimum, you're getting at least 10 concurrent video calls to your GEO station.

Satellite internet plans like SkyMuster rely on ground-to-GEO-communication with a few stationary satellites. This one (An Australian Government satellite in GEO) offers a 2mbit plan per user.

I do not believe you'll get any frequent, regular blackouts. You may get sporadic random radiation spikes knocking things out

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, this answers my question perfectly. I suspected as much but didn't want to overlook some unforeseen reason why this wouldn't work $\endgroup$ – Gilad M Oct 31 '20 at 14:27

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