SpaceX Plans To Provide Starlink Internet To Passengers Aboard Airplanes

SpaceX Plans To Provide Starlink Internet To Passengers Aboard Airplanes

SpaceX is rapidly deploying a constellation of thousands of Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit to provide reliable high-speed broadband internet service globally. Besides beaming internet down to customer’s dish antennas at a specific address, the company is working to make the service mobile so that users can connect to the network anywhere they go, including aboard moving vehicles, sea-going vessels, and aircraft.

During the Connected Aviation Intelligence Summit this week, SpaceX Vice President of Starlink and commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller shared that the company is in discussions with multiple airlines to connect airplane passengers to Starlink Wi-Fi. “We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Hofeller said, according to a report by The Verge. “We have our own aviation product in development… we’ve already done some demonstrations to date, and looking to get that product finalized to be put on aircraft in the very near future,” he said. Hofeller also shared with the panel that the Starlink antenna used aboard airplanes will feature technology similar to its consumer terminals “with obvious enhancements for aviation connectivity,” he added. Before this announcement, the company said that the phased-array dish antenna that customers currently use features technology more advanced than what is aboard fighter jets.

Starlink satellites also operate at a much lower altitude in low Earth orbit (around 550-kilometers) which enables SpaceX to provide a faster broadband service compared to other broadband satellites operating in geostationary orbit (over 30,000-kilometers). “All in all, passengers and customers want a great experience that [geostationary satellite] systems simply cannot provide,” Hofeller told the panel. “So it’s going to be up to the individual airline whether they want to be responsive to that, or if they’re okay with having a system that is not as responsive to their customers’ demand.”

The United States military has been assessing the Starlink network’s performance on a variety of military platforms, including aircraft. The U.S. Air Force program known as ‘Global Lightening’ tested Starlink internet in 2019. Starlink terminals were fixed to the cockpit of a C-12J Huron twin-engine turboprop military airplane, they beamed encrypted internet from space. Program officials said the tests demonstrated significantly higher Internet connection and data-transfer rates than what Air Force aircraft received through other services. The Starlink broadband network demonstrated high-speed internet connectivity of 610 megabits per-second.

To date, SpaceX has launched 1,737 internet-beaming satellites out of 12,000 that will comprise the Starlink network. The company estimates that 4,400 satellites in low Earth orbit will be capable of providing reliable global broadband coverage. Starlink is currently providing beta internet service to select-customers who live in rural and remote areas. SpaceX is accepting service pre-orders via Starlink.com.

Featured Image Source: Pexels

About the Author

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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