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SpaceX’s Starlink suffers global outage

August 31, 2022

By Chris Forrester

SpaceX launched its latest Falcon 9 and carrying a batch of Starlink satellites (Mission 3.4) on August 30th from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, placing 46 extra craft into their transfer orbits. However, the day brought good news and bad news for SpaceX.

The bad news covered its global satellite service suffering a problem which seems to have affected the complete network. That’s seemingly what happened on August 30th with users in the Netherlands, UK, New Zealand, Mexico and the US all reporting loss of service on their Starlink systems.

It seems that the ‘blue screen of death’ affected Starlink users for around 30 minutes but when restored it was also widely reported that download speeds were badly degraded. One user identified the fall in connectivity from a typical 200 Mb/s to around 30-32 and even 17 Mb/s.

Starlink official advice is to wait 30 minutes prior to re-powering up the system which – unrelatedly to the current problem – would normally allow for updates to the system.

There was some better news for SpaceX with cruise line Royal Caribbean contracting with SpaceX for its Starlink service. The technology will be deployed across all Royal Caribbean-owned cruises beginning immediately, with installation scheduled to be completed early next year. Starlink will be added on all Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises ships, along with all new vessels for each of the brands.

“This technology will provide game-changing internet connectivity onboard our ships,” Royal Caribbean CEO Jason Liberty said in a press release. “It will improve and enable more high-bandwidth activities like video streaming as well as activities like video calls.”

Up until now, Royal Caribbean’s Voom internet service has relied on internet from other providers, including O3b MEO. The O3b internet had made it on Royal Caribbean’s newer ships, but did not get added to older ships in the fleet.

Quite where this leaves the existing overall contract with Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES is yet to be clarified. In February 2021 SES confirmed that four out of the top-five cruise liners, including Royal Caribbean, were using SES-backed O3b’s mPOWER satellite systems, and the majority contracted “through 2026” and representing an order backlog value of more than €220 million.

Royal Caribbean’s current prices for its faster tier internet start at $19.99 per day, per device.

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