SpaceX Plans To Test Starlink Internet Aboard Starship's Debut Orbital Flight

SpaceX Plans To Test Starlink Internet Aboard Starship's Debut Orbital Flight

SpaceX is preparing to conduct its first orbital Starship test flight during which a prototype of the Super Heavy rocket will propel Starship to orbit from Starbase at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. Soon after launching Starship to orbit, Super Heavy will return to land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 33 kilometers (km) offshore South Texas as Starship continues its voyage across Earth. Starship will reach a maximum altitude of 250 km above the planet’s surface then land softly in the ocean around 100 km off the northwest coast of Kauai in Hawaii. The ambitious orbital flight will provide engineers insight towards the spacecraft’s development. The orbital flight attempt could take place this Summer. SpaceX is rapidly building the orbital launch tower that will support the upcoming orbital flight, pictured below. Engineers will soon conduct ground tests of a Super Heavy prototype, identified as Booster 3, before the orbital flight. Booster 3 was transported to the launch pad on July 1st.

According to a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), SpaceX plans to test its Starlink Internet network aboard Starship’s debut orbital flight. “SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy booster represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond." The company’s Special Temporary Authority (STA) application states that "SpaceX intends to mount Starlink satellite terminals on the Super Heavy booster and orbital Starship for Starship’s first orbital test flight and use these terminals to communicate with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation,” the company wrote to the FCC in the filing. “This is a logical extension of SpaceX’s existing authorization to demonstrate Starlink operations on Starship suborbital flights.”

SpaceX’s objective is to “demonstrate high data rate communications with Starship and the Super Heavy Booster on the ground at the launch site in Starbase, TX during launch, during booster recovery, in flight, and during reentry,” the company stated. “Starlink can provide unprecedented volumes of telemetry and enable communications during atmospheric reentry when ionized plasma around the spacecraft inhibits conventional telemetry frequencies. These tests will demonstrate Starlink’s ability to improve the efficiency and safety of future orbital spaceflight missions,” the company said.

Engineers previously tested a Starlink dish antenna aboard the Starship SN15 prototype which flew 10-kilometers above Boca Chica Beach earlier this year. The dish was hooked to the exterior of the stainless-steel vehicle. Once Starship is operational, SpaceX officials have said that they could use the Starlink broadband constellation to provide service aboard the spacecraft in-transit to the Moon and Mars. “Once we take people to Mars, they are going to need a capability to communicate,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told TIME reporters last year, “In fact, I think it will be even more critical to have a constellation like Starlink around Mars. And then, of course, you need to connect the two planets as well,” she said.

Featured Image Source: SpaceX

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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