SpaceX operates a broadband satellite constellation of approximately 2,200 Starlink satellites that beam internet service to thousands of user terminals around the globe. The company aims to build the world’s most advanced space-based internet infrastructure to connect the most remote places on Earth. Besides connecting the entire world to the internet, the revenue generated by the Starlink network long-term will help SpaceX fund its ultimate goal to build the first self-sustaining city on Mars.
The Starlink constellation will consist of at least 12,000 satellites in Low Earth Orbit that will be deployed within the next six years.SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that once the Starlink constellation is complete, the company could work on ways to build a communications infrastructure between the Red Planet and Earth.
The company is currently focused on creating a robust internet network and achieving full maritime coverage to provide Starlink internet aboard moving vehicles, such as: RVs, trains, ships at sea, and airplanes. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Delta Airlines is already testing SpaceX Starlink internet aboard its planes. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian told reporters the commercial airline company is in discussions with SpaceX representatives who are collaborating to conduct “exploratory testing” of the internet technology. The airline did not provide more details.
SpaceX Vice President of Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller participated in a panel discussion at the Airline Passenger Experience Association in November last year, where he said that SpaceX aims to offer Starlink internet service to airlines “as soon as possible” and mentioned the company was already testing it with several aircraft. “We’re in talks with several of the airlines,” Hofeller said. “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.” Hofeller also shared Starlink will create “a global mesh” that will enable aircraft “flying underneath that global mesh [to] have connectivity anywhere they go.” SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared in 2021 that Starlink is undergoing testing on Gulfstream jets and that they are working on obtaining a license to provide internet specifically aboard Boeing 737 and Airbus 320 aircraft - “as those serve the most number of people,” he said.