SpaceX’s Starlink broadband division is working to expand internet coverage globally. To date, the company has launched 2,042 internet-beaming satellites to Low Earth Orbit. SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared last week that 1,469 Starlink satellites are active and 272 are moving to operational orbits. The satellite constellation currently provides internet service to over 145,000 customers across 25 countries. To receive internet from the satellites in orbit, customers use a Starlink phased-array antenna that is very easy to install without a professional technician, simply plug into an electricity outlet and point at a clear view of the sky outdoors. The first version of the antenna, V1, is a pizza-sized round dish with a diameter of 23.2 inches. In November 2021, SpaceX released a second version of the antenna, V2, that is a 19 inch by 12 inch rectangle. The antennas can easily be installed and connected to a Starlink Wi-Fi router to wirelessly access the satellite internet network. Both antennas can withstand temperatures between -22°F to +122°F (Fahrenheit) and have the capability to automatically increase their temperature to melt snow that may accumulate above the dish surface to improve internet performance. However, the Starlink user terminals go into “thermal shutdown” once they hit 122° F, which causes internet outages for some users living in extremely hot environments.
SpaceX plans to release a high performance (‘HP’) model of the Starlink antenna that will be able to handle “harsher environments”, according to a new U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) application the company filed on Friday, January 21. “Compared to other user terminals SpaceX Services has been authorized to deploy, the HP model has been ruggedized to handle harsher environments so that, for example, it will be able to continue to operate at greater extremes of heat and cold, will have improved snow/ice melt capabilities, and will withstand a greater number of thermal cycles,” SpaceX told the FCC in the application. In comparison to the current user terminals, the HP Starlink model will be installed using only “qualified” personnel. The application does not include an image of how the improved model will look.
SpaceX asked the Commission to approve the HP version to extend broadband service to “a range of much more challenging environments.” “Granting this application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based component for SpaceX’s satellite system that will enhance the range of broadband capabilities available throughout the United States—and most particularly, to those in challenging environments where ruggedization is appropriate… Operation under the requested blanket license will provide the first option for some and promote competition for others in the market for broadband services,” SpaceX wrote. The application suggests that the HP Starlink dish will be useful to businesses. “Some HP terminals will be deployed in Occupational/Controlled Environments, especially for enterprise customers. In addition, many installations will be made in areas that are inaccessible to the public. However, some HP terminals will likely be deployed in General Population/Uncontrolled Environments as well,” SpaceX said.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX Starlink.com