SpaceX Wants To Connect Starlink Satellite Internet To An In-Flight Aircraft
Starlink is currently getting rave reviews in parts of North America where beta tests of the network are underway, and now it looks like SpaceX is looking to take the system to new heights.
The company has recently applied for permission to trial Starlink on a private jet. In a filing made two weeks ago to the Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX requested that they be allowed to connect the satellite broadband system to an inflight Gulfstream aircraft.
If approved, up to five of the jets would have network terminals installed, and would be able to connect to Starlink broadband while on the ground, or in flight, within United States territory. SpaceX said the ‘experimental’ trial would last for up to two years.
In terms of design, the filing claims the terminals installed on the jets would be ‘electrically identical’ to those currently being used by customers involved in on-the-ground beta tests, although given the size of the dishes there would almost certainly be some significant hardware changes.
The request comes two months after SpaceX made a similar FCC filing asking for permission to install Starlink terminals on the vessels used to land its Falcon 9 rocket boosters. With the landings taking place in Florida, the ships are on the other side of the country to where the beta network is currently being rolled-out. Both requests are currently pending approval.
There are currently almost 900 Starlink satellites in orbit, covering a section of northwest America where initial tests are taking place. SpaceX plans to launch as many as 42,000 satellites, to eventually offer global coverage, in a project that the company says will cost an estimated $10 billion.
Participants in the beta tests have reported accessing download speeds of over 170mbps – 95% faster than most current networks – with users saying the system was ‘game changing‘, especially for people living in rural areas. However some astrophysicists have raised concerns that putting tens of thousands of shiny satellites in Earth’s orbit could obscure our view of other objects in space.
SpaceX haven’t confirmed what – or who – exactly the jets will be used for, but it seems a fairly safe guess that Elon Musk will be keen to trial out the satellite network for himself.
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