The American airline JSX has just announced that it has signed a first contract with SpaceX with the aim of providing high-speed Internet service to its customers thanks to Starlink satellites. Other companies are also interested.
In March 2021, SpaceX approached the Federal Communications Commission to apply for a license authorizing the operation of Starlink terminals on “stations in motion”. It is a generic term for cars, trucks, ships and other aircraft.
For several months, SpaceX, which manufactures nearly eight Starlink satellites a day in its factory in Redmond (Washington), has therefore been preparing to expand its market, in particular to that of aviation.
With that in mind, the company, which now claims more than 250,000 subscribers, developed a dedicated square-shaped antenna (a design commonly associated with aircraft antennas). Once installed, these airborne structures can be linked to ground stations to communicate with satellites in orbit and provide broadband.
A first contract for semi-private jets
After several months of talks, SpaceX has finally concluded its first agreement in this direction. The service will indeed be available in a few months for JSX customers. It is an independent American air carrier offering domestic flights (Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, Texas and New York) using semi-private jets intended primarily for business customers. This company operates Embraer ERJ-135 and ERJ-145 aircraft, all equipped with around 30 seats. However, it would have signed up to provide Wi-Fi in flight to a hundred of its jets.
“The service will be offered free of charge to all JSX customers and will not require logging in or other complexities associated with legacy systems,” JSX representatives said in a statement.
As Reuters explains, the company declined to disclose the value of the contract. We do know, however, that SpaceX has also had discussions with several airlines over the past few months, including Delta Airlines, which recently conducted “exploratory testing” of Starlink’s internet technology. SpaceX has also previously tested its network on a handful of Gulfstream jets, as well as military aircraft.
According to the company’s site, Starlink users can expect to see download speeds of between 100Mbps and 200Mbps and latency as low as 20ms on land. According to the recent speedtests offered by Ookla in the fourth quarter of 2021, these promises are generally kept, especially in France, where the service has been available since May 2021. However, we still do not know what the performance of the network will be in flight.
Finally, remember that to date, SpaceX has launched 2,388 satellites to expand its Starlink network. Among them, 2,150 satellites are still in orbit and 2,121 are still operational today.