SpaceX prepares for Starlink beta, images leak of antennas

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SpaceX is preparing for a beta of its Starlink satellite broadband service and Reddit users have leaked further details and images.

Some users who subscribed to be kept posted about testing SpaceX’s broadband service received the following email this week:

The email is very clear that Starlink is collecting addresses to begin recruiting testers for its anticipated satellite service. What we don’t yet know is what countries will be involved in initial tests and how many participants SpaceX is planning for each location.

Reddit sleuths dived into the Starlink website’s code and managed to divulge some further details which haven’t yet been made official.

User u/Bubby4j found some of the most interesting information. The first is that currently only US states are listed, perhaps confirming what we’d all assume that beta tests will be limited to American participants to begin with.

There’s code relating to the collection of payment details but some text explains:

“Charges are not a fee for the Starlink hardware or services, but are being requested exclusively to allow for the testing of our ordering and billing systems as part of this beta program. SpaceX is temporarily loaning you the hardware and providing the internet services free of charge.

The $1 will be charged 30 days after your hardware is shipped. This invitation is not transferable to any other address. By clicking the above link you are activating Starlink Services and authorize regularly scheduled charges to the payment method on file.”

A currently hidden terms and conditions page says that SpaceX will provide testers with a Starlink Kit which consists of a Starlink dish, wifi router, power supply, and mounts.

This is what the Starlink dish looks like (courtesy of Reddit user lgats):

Acceptance of the Starlink Kit is an agreement to test the service for 30 minutes to an hour each day and provide feedback to SpaceX. SpaceX warns in its FAQ that connectivity may be intermittent.

“During Starlink Beta, service will be intermittent as teams work to optimize the network,” the company wrote. “When connected, your service quality will be high, but your connection will not be consistent. This means it may support streaming video with some buffering, but likely is not suitable for gaming or work purposes.”

Starlink currently has around 600 satellites orbiting Earth at about 550km which use the vacuum of space to transfer data nearly 50% faster than fiber-optic cable. Starlink claims because its satellites operate in low-orbit, they will eventually be able to support things which require low latency like online gaming.

Telecoms will keep you posted as we hear more about Starlink’s plans.

(Image Credit: Starlink Mission by SpaceX under CC BY-NC 2.0 license)

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