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SpaceX Now Has More Than 100 Direct-to-Cell Satellites in Orbit 

By Rachel Jewett | July 3, 2024

      SpaceX’s early morning July 3 Starlink launch included 13 direct-to-cell satellites. Photo: SpaceX

      SpaceX now has more than 100 direct-to-cell satellites in orbit after a July 3 Starlink launch. 

      SpaceX launched the first Starlink sats equipped with direct-to-cell capabilities in January of this year and has quickly ramped up to more than 100. These satellites are designed to communicate directly with unmodified cell phones to provide service outside of cellular networks. 

      The early morning launch lifted off at 4:55 a.m. ET on July 3 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The mission carried 20 Starlink satellites, including 13 direct-to-cell satellites. 

      SpaceX Senior Director Sara Spangelo said on X that commercial service with partner T-Mobile will start in the U.S. this fall. SpaceX has been working with T-Mobile since August 2022 and the satellites use a portion of T-Mobile’s mid-band nationwide spectrum to communicate with cell phones. 

      “With over 100 Direct to Cell satellites now launched, and hundreds more planned to be launched this year, excited to provide ubiquitous connectivity to our customers starting with T-Mobile in the U.S. this year,” Spangelo said.

      A number of satellite operators, telcos, and device manufacturers are pursuing satellite-to-cell connectivity through a number of different partnerships and methods of sharing spectrum. Apple, which uses Globalstar’s satellites, recently announced it is expanding satellite messaging on the iPhone with iOS 18 beyond just emergency situations, and satellite messaging will be an option when cellular and Wi-Fi connections are not available.