SpaceX is working towards connecting rural and remote locations globally to Starlink satellite internet. To date, the company has launched a total of 1,737 internet-beaming Starlink satellites to orbit out of over 4,400 that will be part of the broadband constellation. Starlink is already providing internet service to select-customers around Earth, primarily in rural regions where the service already obtained regulatory approval. So far, there are known Starlink users in portions of the United States, Canada, Europe, some countries in Oceania including, New Zealand and Australia. The company is already accepting service pre-orders via Starlink.com and targets ‘near-global’ internet coverage before 2021 ends.
Last week, SpaceX submitted a new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) request to test a small square-shaped Starlink antenna. The current phased-array dish (circle shape) antenna is about the size of a large pizza with a ~23-inch diameter, that requires to be mounted outdoors to receive signal from the satellites in space. SpaceX says the dish features technology more advanced than what fighter jets use. SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently said that Starlink service will go ‘fully-mobile’ by the end of the year, users will be able to take the dish out camping in remote areas. “So, you can move it anywhere or use it on an RV or truck in motion,” he said. However, the dish is too large to take it aboard a smaller vehicle or inside a carry-on backpack when traveling.
The new FCC filing reveals SpaceX plans to experiment with a square-shaped antenna that measures 12.2 by 12.2 inches, to connect to the Starlink broadband constellation [the FCC document was first-found by Wccftech]. “In this application, SpaceX seeks experimental authority to allow testing of a new terminal integrated by SpaceX with SpaceX's licensed non-geostationary orbit satellite system,” SpaceX wrote to the FCC in the filing , “The terminal will be tested in five fixed locations. Information on the characteristics of the terminal is set forth below,” they wrote. The graph/images below are part of the document, it details some of the antenna's technical specifications. SpaceX is seeking a 6-month experimental license to test the Starlink antenna in California, Texas, Utah, Colorado, and Washington State. “The tests requested here are designed to demonstrate the ability to transmit to and receive information from a fixed location on the ground. SpaceX will test antenna equipment functionality and analyze data link performance of the user terminal,” the application states.
Source: SpaceX FCC Document
SpaceX’s new FCC experimental antenna request comes after the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which oversees various military commands of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force, announced a proposal to develop a small battery-powered Starlink terminal that would enable SpaceX’s internet service to be portable for military operations. The proposal is published in a document that is part of a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) under the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. It is unclear whether SpaceX is developing this smaller square-shape Starlink antenna for military operations or commercial use.
The USSOCOM wants to research whether developing a portable Starlink antenna soldiers could carry is ‘feasible’ and if it would reliably connect them to the space-based internet infrastructure. “The objective of this topic is to develop applied research toward an innovative capability to develop a small form factor system that enables reliable access to the Starlink commercial internet system,” they said. “As a part of this feasibility study, the proposers shall address all viable overall system design options with respective specifications on the key system attributes. The current commercial Starlink system uses a 1m dish and requires significant amounts of power to operate. The key system attributes for the desired system are that it must be man portable and battery powered,” the USSOCOM document reads. “The system should be designed to be as small as possible while providing enough link margin to achieve reliable internet connection over the Starlink constellation.” Author's note: Thanks for supporting TESMANIAN! Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Featured Images Source: SpaceX / Edited by Tesmanian.com
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.