Starlink Dish Lets Us Save Fuel Says Aircraft Maker As Part Of Big Announcement

A Starlink user terminal in the snow. Image: Steve Golson/YouTube

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SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service scored another major win today after a Canadian subsidiary of a British aircraft manufacturer announced that it will integrate Starlink terminals in its aircraft as part of an upgrade. The announcement was made by De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Limited as part of the company's design and operational upgrades to the Dash 8-400 aircraft. In the release, De Havilland Canada praised Starlink's internet connectivity performance and terminal design, both of which it believes offer significant improvements over other satellite internet services.

Starlink Lands First Deal With Aircraft Manufacturer As Part Of Design Upgrade

Starlink, which uses ground stations and dishes to provide internet connectivity, allows its users to access the Internet from anywhere in the globe, provided that SpaceX has activated the option. Over the course of this year, the internet service has expanded its presence globally and on all kinds of vehicles. These include recreational vehicles (RVs), airplanes and ships - with SpaceX using its own rocket recovery drone ships as a case study to prove the merits of the internet service.

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However, while all of Starlink's agreements so far have been with companies that provide transportation services, today's development is the first time that SpaceX has directly inked an agreement with an aircraft manufacturer. This will naturally allow for greater flexibility in incorporating the Starlink dishes in the aircraft, and Dehavillad Canada was full of praise for the equipment as it noted in its press release that:

Satellite-based Internet Connectivity from Starlink enables high speed, low latency broadband internet worldwide, providing passengers with a premier internet experience not available from any other satellite or air-to-ground system. The Starlink antenna’s lightweight and aerodynamic form factor enable a more sustainable operation with fuel savings not capable with other legacy systems. De Havilland Canada’s work with Starlink to integrate satellite-based, in-flight Wi-Fi on an aircraft platform is the first agreement between Starlink and any OEM and highlights De Havilland Canada’s customer focus and agility as an organization.

The De Havilland Dash 8-400 is a turboprop regional aircraft. Image: DeHavilland Aircraft of Canada

SpaceX sought the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) approval to operate Starlink terminals on aircraft and other vehicles last year and the filing provided us with key details about the aircraft terminals. It outlined that SpaceX plans to operate two different kinds of terminals, one of which will be for professional use.

These terminals, designed for occupational use and dubbed 'High Performance (HP)', will be different from the ones used by everyday consumers. They will have higher antenna power densities and as such will be installed only by qualified professionals. Additionally, they will also be able to stay connected to the orbiting satellites for a longer time duration.

SpaceX outlined to the Commission in August 2021 that:

SpaceX Services will ensure installation of HP ESIM terminals on vehicles, vessels, and aircraft by qualified installers who have an understanding of the antenna's radiation environment and the measures best suited to maximize protection of the general public and persons operating the vehicle and equipment. An HP ESIM terminal exhibiting radiation exposure levels exceeding 1.0 mW/cm² in accessible areas, such as the exterior surface of a radome, will have a label attached to the surface of the terminal warning about the radiation hazard and will include thereon a diagram showing the regions around the terminal where the radiation levels could exceed the maximum radiation exposure limit specified in 47 C.F.R. § 1.1310 Table 1.

The De Havilland Dash 8-400 is used by American, Canadian and Australian airlines, and as opposed to some of the newer aircraft out there, it uses turboprop engines. Its latest upgrades include longer ranges and higher payload capacities.

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