The US Air Force has awarded SpaceX a $1.9 million contract for its now combat-tested Starlink satellite broadband services.
Under the contract, the US Air Force will use Starlink to support operations at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. SpaceX will provide Starlink terminals and service access for fixed sites and mobile users.
Starlink is currently designed for use on fixed sites. A new “portability” feature was launched earlier this year – for an additional monthly fee – but current terminals aren’t intended for use in moving vehicles (which hasn’t stopped some people with a little of hacking.)
SpaceX has made clear its intention to offer Starlink services to moving vehicles of all types, including planes and boats. Earlier this year, the FCC granted SpaceX interim approval to provide Starlink connectivity to moving vehicles.
When Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, telecommunications networks were targeted and there were a number of reports of Ukrainians turning to Starlink to stay connected. Over the following months, SpaceX sent other batches of Starlink terminals to the country:
Starlink found itself literally battle tested, and the US Air Force took notice.
“Starlink is the only communications company in the LEO constellation that currently provides this commercial satellite solution with services to Europe and Africa. Starlink is also the only LEO satellite network provider currently in use in a contested environment: Ukraine,” the contract states.
A number of LEO satellite networks are emerging from providers such as Amazon, OneWeb, Telesat and others, but none as established as Starlink.
“AFRL has found that in a contested environment, LEO constellations are much more resilient to signal jamming and also provide the low latency needed to support tactical missions,” the document points out.
OneWeb, which is partly owned by the UK government, was seen as the next best option after Starlink. However, OneWeb currently lacks Starlink coverage and its planned launches this year have been scrapped by Russian space agency Roscosmos.
(Photo by Hans Dorries on Unsplash)
Related: OneWeb turns to SpaceX for satellite launches after Roscosmos snob
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