SpaceX aims to fund missions to the moon and Mars by offering Starlink broadband internet service worldwide. The aerospace company has deployed 540 internet-beaming Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. The entire network will consist of over 12,000 satellites beaming low latency, high-speed internet down to Earth. Customers will receive Starlink’s signal via user terminals that look like a ‘UFO on a stick’, pictured above. The network will be easy to set-up at home – “Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle. No expert installer required. Just plug in & give it a clear view of the sky,” Elon Musk, the founder and CEO at SpaceX said, “Can be in garden, on roof, table, pretty much anywhere, so long as it has a wide view of the sky.” The Starlink network is designed to run real-time, competitive video games – “We're targeting latency below 20 milliseconds (ms), so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level, like that's the threshold for the latency,” Musk said.
SpaceX is targeting to offer Starlink service in the Northern United States and Canada in 2020. Then expand into a global network by 2021. Those who live in Northern parts of the hemisphere will have the opportunity to become the first Beta testers of the service. "Starlink private beta begins this summer with public beta to follow. If you are signed up for updates, we will notify you if beta opportunities become available in your area," the company wrote in an e-mail to potential customers.
Source: SpaceX application to the Federal Communication Commission
Yesterday, July 14, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the operation of “Starlink Routers.” The document revealed a photograph (shown above) of how the bottom of the device looks. The triangular device appears to be a Wi-Fi connection router, that could act as a link between the outdoor terminal and the customer’s devices. According to the FCC document, the device will be capable of receiving and transmitting signals from the Starlink terminals and satellites.
New information was revealed today, July 15, a Reddit user /u/Bubby4j found Starlink information via its website’s HTML source code, which means SpaceX is working on editing its website and the individual was able to catch a glimpse before its published. The details are about the company’s Starlink Beta Test program – information leaked is Starlink’s FAQ page and “Terms Of Service”.
The website’s code reveals SpaceX plans to provide beta testers with a “Starlink kit” which will include:
-Starlink ‘UFO on a stick’ Terminal
The selected Starlink Beta testers will have to install the terminal themselves.“You are responsible for installing the Starlink Kit. Do not allow third-parties, or those not associated with SpaceX, to access or install the Starlink Kit unless you obtain approval form SpaceX. Do not install the Starlink Kit at your home if you do not have the authority to do so,” the company wrote.
Starlink Beta Tester's Responsibilities
By accepting to become a Starlink Beta Tester, users must agree to test the Starlink broadband network for 30 minutes to 1 hour every day and provide feedback to SpaceX employees. “You agree to dedicate an average of 30 minutes to 1 hour per day testing the Starlink Services and providing feedback on a periodic basis,” the company’s ‘Terms Of Service’ state, “Feedback requests from SpaceX will come in the form of surveys, phone calls, emails, and other means. Not participating can result in termination of your Beta Program participation and you must return your Starlink Kit.”
Additionally, SpaceX will monitor the Beta Tester’s activity – “we will be collecting information through our survey questions, and certain data for the purpose of measuring performance,” which includes “A record of time when the dish is active and transmitting” and “Amount of data the dish uses per moment of time,” among other things like GPS location and performance. “Do not conduct any illegal activities using the Starlink Services. This includes, downloading or storing any material that infringes on the intellectual property or copyrights of third-parties, such as downloading movies or music without paying for it. SpaceX may suspend or terminate your participation in the Beta Program if we believe you are participating in illegal behavior using Starlink Services,” the company says.
As exciting as becoming a Starlink Beta tester is, whomever is selected must keep all testing strictly confidential –“You may NOT discuss your participation in the Beta Program online or with those outside of your household, unless they are SpaceX employees,” the website terms state – “You must not share anything on social media about the Starlink Services or the Beta Program. This applies not only to public forums, but also to private accounts and restricted groups. Do not provide access or information about Starlink Services to the media or allow third-parties to take pictures of any part of the Starlink Kit.”
SpaceX says Beta testers will have access to internet for free, with a small fee to test its “billing systems” –“As part of the Beta Program’s online ordering process, SpaceX will ask you to input your credit or debit card information and your card will be charged a small amount in order to test SpaceX’s ordering and billing systems. For example, at the initial sign-up you will be charged approximately $3.00 total and thereafter, a reoccurring charge of approximately $2.00 per month during the duration of the Beta Program.” – “This nominal charge is NOT a fee for the Starlink Kit or internet services, but is exclusively being requested to allow SpaceX to test its ordering and billing systems. SpaceX is temporarily loaning you the Starlink Kit and providing the internet services free of charge. If you do not want to provide your credit or debit card information, please do not participate in the Beta Program,” SpaceX says.
The leaked FAQ page reveals many details about what the first Beta testers should expect. The information below are the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ by SpaceX about becoming a Beta tester.
Q: What is Starlink Beta?
A: Starlink Beta is an opportunity to be an early user of the SpaceX's satellite internet system.The purpose of Starlink Beta is to gather feedback that will help us make decisions on how best to implement the system for Starlink's official launch. By design, the beta experience will be imperfect. Our goal is to incorporate feedback from a variety of users to ensure we build the best satellite broadband internet system possible.
Q: Who can participate in Starlink Beta?
A: Starlink Beta will begin in the Northern United States and lower Canada, with those living in rural and/or remote communities in the Washington state area. Access to the Starlink Beta program will be driven by the user's location as well as the number of users in nearby areas. All beta testers must have a clear view of the northern sky to participate.
Q: Why do I need a clear view of the northern sky to be a beta tester?
A: The Starlink system is currently made up of nearly 600 satellites orbiting the Earth that can provide internet service in a very specific range-between 44 and 52 degrees north latitude. Your Starlink dish requires a clear view of the Northern sky in order to communicate with the Starlink satellites. Without the clear view, the Starlink dish cannot make a good connection and your service will be extremely poor.
Q: Can I document and share my Starlink Beta experience?
A: No, unfortunately you cannot document or share your Starlink Beta experience publicly. Beta testers will be required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement as a condition of their participation.
Q: How will my service quality be during Starlink Beta?
A: During Starlink Beta, service will be intermittent as teams work to optimize the network. When connected, your service quality will be high, but your connection will not be consistent. This means it may support streaming video with some buffering, but likely is not suitable for gaming or work purposes.
Q: What is expected of me as a participant in Starlink Beta?
A: Beta testers will provide feedback in the form of periodic short surveys over an 8 week period to help our teams improve every aspect of the service.
Q: Is there a cost to participating Starlink Beta?
A: There is no cost to be a beta tester, aside from a $1 charge to help test the billing system.
Q: What will I receive as a Beta Tester?
A: Your Starlink Kit will arrive via FedEx pre-assembled with a Starlink dish, router, power supply and mount depending on your dwelling type. Your Starlink Kit will require a signature for delivery, but you will be able to manage your delivery date and time through FedEx.
Q: How does Starlink internet work?
A: Starlink will deliver high-speed broadband internet across the globe with a large, low-Earth constellation of relatively small but advanced satellites. Satellite internet works by sending information through the vacuum of space, where it travels nearly 50% faster than in fiber-optic cable.
Q: Most satellite internet services today come from single geostationary satellites that orbit the planet at about 35,000km, covering a fixed region of the Earth. Starlink, on the other hand, is a constellation of multiple satellites that orbit the planet much lower at about 550km, and cover the entire globe.
A: Because the satellites are in a low orbit, the round-trip data time between the user and the satellite - also known as latency - is much lower than with satellites in geostationary orbit. This enables Starlink to deliver services like online gaming that are usually not possible on other satellite broadband systems.
Q: If I sign up to be a Beta Tester and I change my mind, can I cancel?
A: Yes, you can cancel at any time.
[*Note: this information can change, it was extracted from the website’s source code, all information can be updated by SpaceX at any time.]
You can find out when Starlink will be available in your city via SpaceX's website: STARLINK UPDATES
About the Author
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.