The National Science Foundation announced Wednesday, September 14, that a new Starlink user terminal has been installed at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, meaning that SpaceX’s satellite internet service is now partially available on all seven continents. While, according to Yahoo Finance, there was already a more traditional satellite internet connection in the station, the connection to Starlink should alleviate the harsh competition for limited bandwidth.

“NSF-supported USAP scientists in #Antarctica are over the moon! Starlink is testing polar service with a newly deployed user terminal at McMurdo Station, increasing bandwidth and connectivity for science support.” National Science Foundation on Twitter

So how, exactly, does Starlink work, and how will it be able to improve internet in rural areas, when satellite internet already exists? To be completely honest, I really had no idea until I began doing some research for this story. First of all, according to PC Magazine, satellite internet in general works by transmitting data through radio waves, rather than through cables. Ground stations transmit to satellites, satellites bounce that information back to users, and the other way around.

What Starlink does differently is in the height and number of satellites. Most satellite internet services place their satellites at around 22,000 miles above the planet. Starlink shrinks that distance, shooting to keep them around 300 miles above the Earth’s service. On top of that, SpaceX intends to launch around 40,000 satellites into Earth’s orbit, creating a massive grid with little gaps in coverage. Both of these factors are meant to come together to create a faster service with much more widespread coverage and few areas in which service would cut out.

Personally, I think Starlink is a pretty neat idea. Do I really know enough about it to actually form any sort of real opinion? Absolutely not, so I’m not going to try to share any more than just that. I definitely think it’s cool that remote research stations are gaining access to faster internet and connections to the rest of the world, though!

Image Credit: National Science Foundation on Twitter & Starlink on Instagram