SpaceX to Launch First Direct-To-Cell Starlink Satellites This Weekend

SpaceX is set to launch the first batch of Direct-to-Cell Starlink satellites that will allow for global cellular connectivity. The six satellites with Direct-to-Cell capabilities were scheduled to launch last night, but has been moved to tonight pending favourable weather conditions.

“This launch will include the first six Starlink satellites with Direct to Cell capabilities that will enable mobile network operators around the world to provide seamless global access to texting, calling, and browsing wherever you may be on land, lakes, or coastal waters,” SpaceX wrote in its mission briefing.

The launch comes just after SpaceX received approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin testing the Direct-to-Cell system. During the 180-day testing period, SpaceX plans to transmit data from the cellular Starlink satellites to 2,000 test devices on the ground using T-Mobile’s licensed spectrum. This testing phase aims to pave the way for the eventual launch of the cellular Starlink system, starting with text messaging next year for carriers like Rogers in Canada, with plans to introduce voice and data capabilities by 2025.

SpaceX anticipates deploying approximately 840 Direct-to-Cell capable satellites over the next six months, with ongoing launches to ensure a critical mass for commercial service by 2024. However, SpaceX has only received clearance for testing from the FCC, facing regulatory hurdles for full approval due to concerns about potential radio interference raised by rival companies.

The launch, scheduled from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base at 9:19 p.m. PT. In case of continued unfavourable conditions, a backup window on the following day at 12:37 a.m. PT is available.

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