SpaceX to test Starlink terminals on ships

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has applied to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to erect up to 10 Starlink broadband receive terminals on up to 10 of its vessels, for test purposes.

These nautical beta-user terminals will connect to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites which will be in contact with the company’s satellite-based broadband network.

“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. Specifically, SpaceX proposes to deploy a total of ten earth stations across up to ten vessels, including two autonomous spaceport drone ships used to land rocket boosters at sea,” SpaceX said it its FCC filing.

SpaceX has a fleet of vessels which includes a pair of ‘drone vessels’ used to provide a floating landing stage for its returning rockets after launch. They also have a pair of recovery vessels used to capture and collect the rocket nosecone fairings that fall towards the ocean after launch.


SpaceX is known to have started testing its broadband system under a ‘friends and family’ beta-test and these claim content transfer latencies as low as an impressive 20 milliseconds. SpaceX also says that it is enjoying “extraordinary” demand from would-be users to its broadband system, and almost 700,000 US potential users enquiring about the company’s upcoming service.

SpaceX has promised a commercial start to its service in the northern US and Canada before the end of this year, and a “near-global” service in 2021.


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