SpaceX wants to test its Starlink satellite internet network with boats it uses to land rockets

SpaceX wants to test its Starlink satellite internet network with boats it uses to land rockets

  • SpaceX plans to further expand testing of the Starlink satellite internet network it is building, with the company wanting to begin demonstrations using its oceangoing fleet of vessels.
  • Elon Musk’s space company on Tuesday asked the FCC if it can add to its boats 10 Starlink user terminals, which are the small devices on the ground that connect to the network.
  • SpaceX operates several ships, most of which focus on recovering its capsules, rocket boosters and rocket nosecones after missions.



a large boat in a body of water: The landed Falcon 9 rocket booster from SpaceX's Demo-2 crewed mission returns to Port Canaveral in Florida.


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The landed Falcon 9 rocket booster from SpaceX’s Demo-2 crewed mission returns to Port Canaveral in Florida.

SpaceX plans to expand testing further of the Starlink satellite internet network it is building, with the company wanting to begin demonstrations using its oceangoing fleet of vessels.

Elon Musk’s space company on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission if it can add 10 Starlink user terminals to its boats. User terminals are the small devices on the ground that connect to the company’s satellite internet network.



a sunset over a body of water: A Starlink user terminal, which would connect consumers to the company's satellite internet service.


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A Starlink user terminal, which would connect consumers to the company’s satellite internet service.

“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 droneships used to land rocket boosters at sea,” the company wrote in the FCC filing.

SpaceX operates several ships, most of which focus on recovering its capsules, rocket boosters and rocket nosecones after missions.



a small boat in a body of water: A SpaceX recovery ship


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A SpaceX recovery ship

The application was listed as pending approval by the FCC as of Wednesday morning.

Starlink is the the company’s ambitious plan to build an interconnected network with as many as 12,000 small satellites in low Earth orbit. To date, SpaceX has launched about 650 of its version 1.0 satellites and is currently building a system of ground stations and user terminals to connect consumers directly to its network.

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SpaceX has been conducting a private beta test of Starlink over this summer, which the company recently said has showed the network’s internet speeds are capable of playing online video games and streaming movies. Employees have been testing Starlink’s latency and download speeds, key measures for an internet service provider.

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The company told the FCC in July that SpaceX is building 120 satellites per month, as well as thousands of the small terminals that consumers will use to connect to the network. Additionally, SpaceX has said that Starlink is already seeing “extraordinary demand” from potential customers, with “nearly 700,000 individuals” across the U.S. indicating they are interested in the company’s coming service.

SpaceX plans to begin a public beta test of Starlink once the private beta test concludes. The company aims to offer Starlink as a commercial service before the end of this year in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, with plans for “near-global coverage of the populated world in 2021.”



A stack of Starlink internet satellites just before a launch.


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A stack of Starlink internet satellites just before a launch.

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