SpaceX plans to use unmanned barges as sea internet stations for Starlink
SpaceX has filed an application with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to test 12 unmanned barges as marine internet stations. The application annex states that all 12 stations will interact with the Starlink satellite network.
As the company’s lawyer explained, the experiment is related to the Starlink Maritime project, within the framework of which the company provides Internet services to merchant marine vessels, oil rigs and premium yachts. According to him, “the purpose of the test is to assess the ability of unmanned barges to serve as gateways in the marine environment.”
Antennas on the barges will connect to both first and second generation Starlink satellites. It is explained that during the trial period they will receive and transmit only test traffic, the volume of which the company did not specify.
Starlink satellites currently provide users with communications by receiving data from ground stations. If the ground station is out of line of sight, the satellite uses a laser system to communicate with other satellites, thus forming a porous network.
Although the laser system has proven its reliability, SpaceX is exploring the possibility of expanding Starlink coverage at sea through the Starlink Maritime project. Launched in 2022, the project operates in the coastal waters of North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Chile. The cost of services starts at $5,000 per month.
At the beginning of January 2024, the Starlink company launched a tariff for providers and communication operators in remote regions of the world in the areas of its presence called Community Gateways. As part of this offer, corporate customers are provided with special network kits for the organization of communication channels with a speed of up to 10 Gbit/s and a cost of $75,000 per month.