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SpaceX Touts 100 Mbps Starlink Test Speeds, Confirms Inter-Satellite Links

By Rachel Jewett | September 3, 2020

SpaceX launches 60 more Starlink satellites on Sept. 3. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched another batch of Starlink satellites on Thursday morning. A Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 Starlink sats from Launch Complex 39A at 8:46 a.m. EST, deploying the satellites about 15 minutes after liftoff. The Falcon 9 first stage successfully landed on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship.

SpaceX also provided a key update about Starlink satellite internet service that it plans to deliver high speed connectivity to unserved or underserved areas. Kate Tice, senior program reliability engineer at SpaceX, said during the launch webcast that beta testing has shown “super low latency and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps.” 

Tice said the network is still “very much a work in progress” and public beta testing will begin later this year. 

The speed Tice shared does not match results from Starlink beta tests conducted with Ookla’s tool have been shared on Reddit recently, reported on by Ars Technica and other outlets. Those tests showed download speeds ranging from 11 Mbps to 60 Mbps.

Tice also revealed that some Starlink satellites are equipped with inter-satellite links, a major question that has surrounded the constellation. Tice said the Starlink team has completed a test of two satellites in orbit that are equipped with inter-satellite links, which SpaceX calls “space lasers.” 

“With these space lasers the Starlink satellites were able to transfer hundreds of gigabytes of data. Once the space lasers are fully deployed, Starlink will be one of the fastest options available to transfer data around the world,” she said. 

In a recent webcast with Via Satellite, Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of Starlink and Commercial Sales said SpaceX was “aggressively” targeting inter-satellite links. 

“We have to make sure it’s cost effective in order to provide it and implement into the constellation. That’s something we are attacking internally and aggressively and it’s something that we know will greatly enhance the system, both for consumers and enterprise customers, and our government customers as well,” Hofeller said in July. 

This was the 12th Starlink mission, and the ninth Starlink mission of 2020. With this launch, SpaceX has launched 713 Starlink satellites, including two prototypes. SpaceX’s previous Starlink launch on Aug. 18 carried 58 Starlink satellites, along with three Planet SkySats.