SpaceX Will Operate Starlink in Cars, Boats and Planes

SpaceX has applied to operate Starlink in moving vehicles like cars, boats and planes.

This means we will have gigabit internet in our self-driving cars, cruise ships and passenger planes.

SOURCES – SpaceX, Tesmanian
Written by Brian Wang,

27 thoughts on “SpaceX Will Operate Starlink in Cars, Boats and Planes”

  1. This instantly changes the RV/expat game, provided the "landing station" restrictions aren't excessive. Worst case, a country can force starlink to pass all outbound internet through the landing station, which would facilitate tapping and blocking. SpaceX can't really say no if they are required to, in order to legally sell devices and services in that country.

  2. Being able to put an antenna pretty much anywhere you have enough power makes it really easy to set up tiny communications cells. Every suburban block could have it's own tiny cell tower. Homeowners could make a few dollars by maintaining the hardware for cell communications near their homes.

  3. There will be no reason not to do the RV gypsy lifestyle, if reasonably priced broadband is available everywhere!

  4. I'm not too sure of that. If you have the receivers cheap enough to place in homes, building, cars, planes, offices, cell phone type towers etc. really anywhere then you would not lose connection. You would just need a remote handoff protocol to move from one dish to the next. You may have limited points when working remotely, but not necessarily in an urban environment.
    In fact, you could have a wearable computer on your arm, or a device like a cell phone, with you and "throw" a video image to larger monitors depending on location, or VOIP from anywhere. Monitors are pretty inexpensive right now and getting cheaper all the time too for teleconferencing.
    I do not believe we have even remotely seen the end of the possibilities this technology may be capable of.

  5. Solar power satellites absolutely aren't the next level of fruit. The next level is voice coms over that IP network.

  6. Low-hanging fruit: a common metaphor in business that refers to doing the easiest task first.

    In no way shape or form is solar power from satellites 'low-hanging fruit.'

  7. Starlink is the low hanging fruit of cheap LEO access. Being an ISP is a relatively easy way to make a good deal of money.

    One supposes that solar power satellites could be next but they really work best with a Starship sized payload.

    Who knows maybe he'll see how valuable the real estate is for the first person to own a Lunar Space elevator.

  8. Oh really?

    The history of Elon Musk and his ventures has been, "You can't do that… It's not possible."

  9. Not so sure, his Tesla Master Plan part 1 and 2 do seem to start with the technically and financially 'easy' and work from there.

  10. Sure, it's a tradeoff, but it's not a practical tradeoff

    It's just not a trade off, it's the everything of antenna design, and why practically no ground station in existence uses an omnidirectional antenna for satellite coms.

    At no point was a really suggesting direct cellphone to satellite communications, but Starlink has this pretty cool phased array antenna system that's capable for far more than just IP traffic.

  11. Sure, it's a tradeoff, but it's not a practical tradeoff on the phone end of the transmission: By the time your phone was putting out enough power to talk to the satellite using an omnidirectional antenna, it would be cooking you. They already put out about as much power as you'd ever want that close to your body, when distant from the towers.

    So you're stuck with a directional antenna on the ground regardless of available power, and that dictates the size.

    I could definitely see them making every Starlink antenna into a cell station. They're already planning on them having wifi so you can do VOIP calls from standard phones while in range.

  12. No, the real catch is transceiver power versus antennae design.

    A standard omnidirectional antenna would require far too much power, thus for decades ground stations used a parabolic antenna to overcome that issue. Another solution to the high power requirements of an omnidirectional antenna for satellite communication is using a phased array antenna, which is the choice SpaceX made for Starlink.

    I can envision a way Starlink could pull off cellphone service for a limited service area just by placing a OFDM transceiver in every Starlink antenna, whether it's home, car, boat, or plane. Of course there are regulatory hurdles to surmount, but the technology is doable.

  13. They don't initially go after the traditional cell phone market.

    Think of their coverage of low population density areas as a foot in the door, and an opportunity to learn the real world problems. Then they can continually upgrade the system to penetrate ever deeper into higher density areas.

    And in really high population areas, they could place suitcase sized cell stations that connect multiple phones direct to their satellites, bypassing local infrastructure. It would be a natural product for their current model to develop, but then could be used in urban areas.

  14. Remember, though, that the Starlink satellites have a low lifetime, and will be continually replaced. This allows them to continually upgrade them.

  15. I think this is very likely in a few years since a startup is already promoting the idea and it would be much easier for SpaceX/ Starlink to implement than a start-up. The model is a separate Constellation of much larger satellites, probably launched by Starship, with laser com links to Starlink backbone. Business model is it can reach ordinary smartphones/ mobile devices via 4G/5G and does billing through existing carriers as a high priced option to switch over typically when device is outside ordinary ground based coverage. Very useful for emergencies, military, etc. supplements existing service.
    This requires entirely separate Satellites not currently approved as part of Starlink – but would work with existing smartphones/ Mobile hotspots.

  16. Also emergency phone service in areas where regular cellular service is disrupted, because the only local resources needed is the ground station, which can have battery backup.

  17. As I said, there would be technical challenges, but this wouldn't be the first time SpaceX had risen to the challenge.

  18. Yup. They don't go after the traditional cell phone market.

    They go after the poorly connected regions outside the 4G/5G networks that nobody covers, due to them having too low a population density to justify the investment.

    Sounds foolish as an investment, but it's a large market of homes, farms, trucks, airplanes and boats.

  19. Not likely. Starlink is not trying to disrupt cellular services for mobile devices. The antenna have to be fairly large. They might be able to downsize it for a car, but I think most vehicle applications are more likely for larger vehicles (planes, trains, ships, etc.). I don't think people would enjoy cell phones that stop working when they go inside a building. Maybe a mobile hotspot that could be used for VOIP calls in the middle of nowhere?

  20. Sure… why not?

    Make a smartphone that uses it too… although the transceiver power would be a problem, I bet SpaceX could solve it

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