SpaceX is exploring using drone ships to expand the coverage of Starlink at high sea.

SpaceX has confirmed to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that it is investigating the possibility of using its drone ships, originally designed as rocket landing platforms, as “gateway” stations to reinforce the coverage of its Starlink satellite internet service at sea.

In a recent move, the company applied for a temporary license from the FCC to test the operation of up to 12 “ground station” antennas on the drone ships. Although the application does not directly mention Starlink, it is noted that all the antennas will communicate with SpaceX’s satellite network.

A company lawyer provided more details about the experiment, directly linking it to the Starlink Maritime service. “The purpose of the test is to evaluate the ability of ground stations to function as gateways in a maritime environment using test traffic,” explained the SpaceX lawyer in an email to the FCC, initially highlighted by a Twitter user.

The antennas located on the drone ships will establish connections with both the first and second-generation Starlink satellites. “During the test period, the ground station will only receive and transmit test traffic to evaluate the ability of these ground stations to route and switch non-geostationary fixed satellite service (NGSO FSS) traffic and local backup networks in a maritime environment,” added the SpaceX lawyer.

Currently, Starlink satellites transmit internet to users by extracting data from ground stations connected to fiber optic networks on Earth. If a ground station is not in sight, then a satellite can rely on its laser system to transmit data to other satellites, forming a mesh network in space.

Although the laser system has proven to be robust, delivering more than 42 million gigabytes per day, it seems that SpaceX is exploring the possibility of reinforcing Starlink coverage at sea using its drone ships. However, the company lawyer did not provide further details in the email, including how the drone ships could function as backup without a dedicated fiber connection.

Introduced in 2022, Starlink Maritime is already serving more than 10,000 vessels, according to SpaceX’s progress report for the satellite internet system. To carry out the test, the company will need to secure final approval from the FCC, which is still evaluating the application.

via: [PCmag](

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