SpaceX Starlink November 13, 2021 launch (Source: SpaceX Flickr)

SpaceX Starlink gets new customer dish, more satellites, 140K users

Over the weekend, SpaceX launched 53 Starlink satellites into polar orbit. In addition, the company posted a second customer dish option on the Starlink website last weekand announced it is at 140,000 users/customers through a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing.

The Starlink launch took place on November 13, at 7:19 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It marked the ninth launch and landing of the first Stage booster, which has flown five Starlink missions. Saturday’s event marked a resumption of dedicated polar launches after a two month pause. The first dedicated polar mission took place from Vandenberg Space Force Base in mid-September, with SpaceX officials previously saying Starlink polar launches would be conducted monthly. A pair of Starlink missions are tentatively slated for December.

FCC filings and SpaceX executives said a second, lower-cost dish was in the works. The new rectangular model is “currently available” for all new U.S. orders. At 19 inches by 12 inches, It weighs in at 9.2 pounds, less than the first generation 23.2 inch dish at 16 pounds, and comes with a 3×3 MU-MIMO router without an external Ethernet port, but is IP54 rated, so presumably it can be used outdoors with the appropriate cords.  Adding a wired Ethernet port will cost an additional $20 for a frob that plugs into the router. SpaceX says it is “actively working on” a WiFi mesh network kit to extend the range of router coverage.

For reference, the first generation WiFI router is a 2×2 MU-MIMO with an “aux” Ethernet port built-in and a 100 foot (30 meter) attached power over Ethernet cable between Starlink and power supply. The second-gen dish has a 75 foot (23 meter) detachable power cable between the dish and router, with additional cable lengths available in the Starlink Shop.

A smaller, lighter dish is likely to reduce shipping costs both in the U.S. and overseas, but it is too soon to tell if or how overall broadband speeds may differ between first generation and second generation dishes.  The SpaceX Starlink website cites download speeds between 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps with latencies “as low as 20ms in most locations,” but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the network should be capable of up to 300 Mbps in its current form, with some users on Reddit reporting speeds of more than 200 Mbps initially.

In SpaceX’s November 10, 2021 FCC filing reporting on Starlink and its desire to start deploying its Gen2 constellation, the company reported it had launched around 1800 satellites in orbit, was currently serving around 140,000 users in over 20 plus countries, with dish production slowed by “ship shortage.” In addition, there were over 750,000 orders/deposits globally for Starlink.

Two months ago at Satellite 2021, SpaceX said it had around 100,000 users and was producing around 5,000 dishes per week, so the rough increase to 140,000 users matches previous statements by company executives.  With a second production line in operation and the lower-cost dishes currently shipping to U.S. customers, there’s no data yet as to how fast the company will increase adding users beyond the current pace of 20,000/month. SpaceX has cited chip and shipping shortages as affecting their current fulfillment rates.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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