SpaceX approved to begin testing “next-generation” Starlink user terminals

SpaceX launched its Starlink satellite internet service in late 2020, and since then has already released several different versions of its user terminals. Now it appears the company is gearing up to release another version after receiving approval to begin testing its next-generation Starlink user terminals.

This week the company was granted a temporary license by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “evaluate new user-terminal hardware.”  Based on documents posted to the FCC website SpaceX wanted to begin testing the new equipment as far back as October 28, 2022, but was only granted permission this week. The testing period will end on April 25, 2023.

According to the documents SpaceX will be testing the new hardware in five different locations – Los Angeles and Mountain View, California, Redmond, Washington, Riverton Wyoming, and finally Cape Canaveral, Florida. As many as 200 units of the new hardware will be used during testing, with SpaceX noting that they “may include a combination of earth stations on vehicles, vessels, and aircraft.”

“This testing will allow SpaceX to characterize the performance of these user terminals under a wide range of conditions and to measure the RF density of emissions from these user terminals,” SpaceX said in the filing.

Unfortunately the documents do not go into detail about their technical specifications or what they look like, except to say the dimensions will not exceed 0.586m x 0.385m, or roughly 23 inches by 15 inches. For comparison the Starlink rectangular dish measures 20-1/4 inches by 12 inches, meaning this new hardware is slightly larger than the current generation. SpaceX also says the new hardware will be operating over the 10.7GHz to 12.7GHZ and 14GHz radio bands.

With testing now allowed to begin and only running until April, we could see new Starlink hardware in the second half of 2023.

You can read the documents filed with the FCC below. (h/t: @TeslaHype)

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