SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket autonomous droneship. / Source: SpaceX
SpaceX plans to offer Starlink broadband internet to rural areas on Earth, where connection is unreliable and nonexistent. The aerospace company is deploying fleets of Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit, where they beam broadband signal down to user terminals. To date, there are around 708 internet-beaming satellites in space, out of the 4,409 satellites that will initially comprise the Starlink network. The company is actively assessing the satellite’s performance. Employees received early access to private beta test the network. Company officials state the user terminal dish (pictured below) is very easy to set up at home just ‘plug-in and point at sky.’
According to a letter SpaceX submitted to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 2nd, the satellites are capable of beaming low-latency internet of under 30 milliseconds (ms). – “…Results from beta initial tests have shown both low-latency below 30 ms [milliseconds] and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps [megabits per second],” SpaceX wrote to the FCC. “As it works through these beta tests, SpaceX continues to add features to unlock the full capability of the satellites and user equipment. SpaceX continues its aggressive launch schedule, and this modification is a crucial component in closing the digital divide, including service to Polar Regions.” The company plans to launch at least 120 satellites per month, these are deployed by a pair of Falcon 9 missions. The deployment pace would enable SpaceX to roll-out Starlink service in northern portions of the United States and Canada before this year ends.
Yesterday, September 15, SpaceX submitted a request to the FCC asking for permission to operate the Starlink user terminals on Falcon 9 landing droneships that operate autonomously in the ocean. – “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.”
“Such authority would enable SpaceX to obtain critical data regarding the operational performance of these user terminals,” SpaceX told the FCC.
If FCC approves, these user terminals would operate aboard the vessels while they are “anchored in port, in transit to predetermined landing zones in the Atlantic Ocean, and on station at those landing zone sites,” the filing states.
The company is already preparing to launch the thirteenth fleet of 60 satellites. The mission is scheduled for Thursday, September 17th. A twice flown Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Starlink-13 mission at 2:17 p.m. EDT. from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida.