SpaceX Plans To Test Starlink Aboard U.S. Air Force Aircraft

SpaceX Plans To Test Starlink Aboard U.S. Air Force Aircraft

SpaceX is rapidly building its Starlink satellite constellation to provide broadband internet service globally. The company says it will be “the world’s most advanced broadband internet system” with over 12,000 satellites orbiting Earth. To date, there’s around 1,265 satellites that currently provide beta service to a limited amount of users per region. Company officials state that before this year ends they expect to connect ‘most of Earth’ to the world wide web via Starlink. On March 5, SpaceX filed a request with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate Starlink antennas in moving vehicles, vessels at sea, and aircraft. If approved, SpaceX would be able to install Starlink terminals aboard customer’s ships, RV’s, and airplanes. 

The FCC previously granted SpaceX ‘experimental authorization for activities undertaken with the federal government’ to demonstrate the Starlink system utilizing Starlink antennas on the ground (stationary Earth stations) and aboard federal aircraft. In a new FCC filing published this week (first-found by CNBC reporter-linked below), SpaceX is requesting “minor modifications to its experimental authorization for additional test activities undertaken with the federal government,” the company wrote to the FCC on the filing published on March 11.

The filing reveals SpaceX plans to test Starlink service aboard U.S. Air Force Aircraft. “The tests are designed to demonstrate the ability to transmit to and receive information from (1) two stationary ground sites and (2) one airborne aircraft at one location, and would add to these (3) limited testing from a moving vehicle on the ground,” the filing reads. “An antenna terminal will be integrated onto one aircraft. SpaceX is designing a custom installation kit consisting of mechanical plates for the low-profile antennas and a fairing to reduce wind drag in order to limit the impact to the aircraft for this installation,” SpaceX representatives wrote in the document to the FCC. The Starlink tests aboard military aircraft will be done in collaboration with the Ball Aerospace over the course of four to six months. Ball Aerospace will manufacture the ‘conformal antennas for tactical aircraft’. “SpaceX will analyze the data link performance and installation options for user terminals with conformal arrays,” the company said.


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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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