November 8, 2019
The United States Air Force wants to work with multiple satellite internet providers that are currently building low Earth orbit (LEO) constellations. One of those is SpaceX, the rocket company founded by Elon Musk. SpaceX aspires to fund Starship rocket development and future Moon and Mars missions by offering internet services. They are developing a low latency broadband internet system, named Starlink.
Starlink will be a megaconstellation consisting of 12,000 satellites, with a possible later extension to 42,000 satellites.
These satellites will orbit Earth and beam down high-speed internet all over the globe. It will even be capable of providing internet access to areas around the world where the web is still inaccessible. [Read Starlink tech and design details. Click Here.]
SpaceX successfully launched the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites in May this year. The second launch of 60 satellites is planned for next week, on November 11, 2019. [Read about the upcoming launch.]
SpaceX was awarded a $28 million contract from the Pentagon to test and asses Starlink by connecting it to military platforms.
In October, last month, at the International Aeronautical Congress, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell spoke of the partnership with the U.S. military. She mentioned Starlink is currently being tested on aircraft and that contract also includes testing communications between other satellites in orbit.
"We are delivering high bandwidth into the cockpit of Air Force planes [...] Right now we're just testing the capability and figuring out how to make it work."
The Air Force program, named Global Lightning, started testing Starlink satellites and they beamed high-speed encrypted internet into user terminals fixed to the cockpit of a C-12J Huron twin-engine turboprop military airplane, an aircraft type used for passenger and cargo transport. Shotwell said they also plan to test Starlink with "a number" of additional military aircraft types.
Starlink has been, “one hundred times faster” than previous connections, she told reporters. They have been testing Starlink while flying and the technology has demonstrated internet speeds of 610 megabits per-second, equivalent to a gigabyte every ~13 seconds.
At that speed, it's possible to download an entire hour long high definition film in less than one minute!