Falcon 9

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Autonomous Drone Ship Is Already Connected To Starlink

SpaceX's Falcon 9 Autonomous Drone Ship Is Already Connected To Starlink

Featured Image Source: SpaceX 

SpaceX teams are preparing to launch the twenty-fourth fleet of internet-beaming Starlink satellites atop a previously-flown Falcon 9 from Florida’s Space Coast next week. The booster identified as B1058-7 has launched six times before, it will liftoff a seventh time to deploy the fleet of 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday, April 7 at 12:34 p.m. EDT (all dates are subject to change). In order to be reused, Falcon 9’s first-stage booster returns from space soon after liftoff; It conducts a propulsive landing on an autonomous spaceport drone ship at sea. The upcoming Starlink mission will utilize the ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ drone ship to recover booster B1058-7.

On Saturday, April 3rd, NASASpaceflight photographers captured footage of ‘Of Course I Still Love You’ departing Port Canaveral towards its designated zone in the Atlantic Ocean where it will await Falcon 9’s landing. In the video, shown below, spectators noticed the drone ship is equipped with a Starlink dish antenna, which suggests it is already connected to SpaceX’s internet infrastructure. The autonomous drone ships need reliable internet connection to receive data about the booster as it returns from space to land, also to transmit Live broadcast video of the incoming booster.

In September last year, SpaceX filed a request with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate the Starlink user terminals on Falcon 9 landing drone ships. –“In order to expand its assessment of the end-to-end capabilities of its satellite system, SpaceX seeks authority to test these user terminals on seagoing platforms for a period of up to two years,” the aerospace company wrote in the filing to the Commission, “Specifically, SpaceX proposes to deploy a total of ten earth stations across up to ten vessels, including two autonomous spaceport droneships used to land rocket boosters at sea on high-velocity missions that cannot carry enough fuel to allow for a return-to-launch-site landing, and support ships that accompany the droneships to the landing zone at sea,” they wrote. “Such authority would enable SpaceX to obtain critical data regarding the operational performance of these user terminals,” SpaceX told the FCC. SpaceX plans to utilize the Starlink internet communication service while the vessels remain “anchored in port, in transit to predetermined landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean, and on station at those landing zone sites.” It appears SpaceX already started to test the Starlink network aboard its launch support vessels at sea.

Most recently, early-March, SpaceX filed a new request with the FCC seeking a ‘blanket-license’ to operate Starlink user terminals onboard public moving vehicles such as: vessels at sea, aircraft, trains, as well as large trucks and RV’s, according to company officials. “Granting this application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX's satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide,” SpaceX wrote to the FCC last month, “The urgency to provide broadband service to unserved and underserved areas has never been clearer. U.S. and worldwide demand for broadband services and Internet connectivity continues to increase with escalating requirements for speed, capacity, and reliability and ongoing adaptations for usage.”


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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