SpaceX’s Starlink is facing two legal challenges over its planned roll-out of a new generation of broadband satellites.
Last month the FCC granted SpaceX permission for 7,500 Gen 2 satellites and roll-out for the fleet has already begun. The company had originally requested authorization for almost 30,000 satellites, which will operate in the Ku-, Ka-, and E-bands.
However, as first reported by PCMag, Dish Network and the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) have both filed lawsuits that demand the US Court of Appeals in DC reverse the FCC’s order authorizing Starlink’s next generation satellite network for launch.
Dish Network is opposing the FCC order over concerns the new satellites will disrupt access to the company's satellite TV business.
“The order leaves millions of families receiving satellite television service from Dish in the same frequency band vulnerable to interference. It is unlawful and should be set aside for several reasons,” the company said in its court filing.
The two companies have previously been at loggerheads over spectrum use, with Starlink saying Dish's proposal to use 5G in the 12GHz band would impact the satellite firm’s customer experiences.
Meanwhile, IDA is appealing the decision over the potential impact on the night sky. The group said the fleet would harm professional and amateur astronomy; create impairment of cultural, religious, and heritage values of the night sky; pose a risk to the environment through deposition of alumina in the upper atmosphere; exacerbate climate change; and diminish in the enjoyment of the dark sky.
“It is unprecedented for IDA to resort to the court system to resolve disputes. But in this case, we felt compelled to act,” IDA said in a statement. “With plans to deploy and maintain dozens of satellite constellations, with upwards of one hundred thousand satellites orbiting at any one time, it is critical that federal agencies responsible for making decisions on the future of the night sky – an essential element of the human environment – follow existing laws.”
To reduce impact to the night sky, SpaceX has previously told the FCC about efforts to improve designs for the Gen2 machines, including “space-stable black paint” and “next-generation dielectric mirror film,” to minimize reflections.
The company also this month signed an astronomy coordination agreement with the US National Science Foundation (NSF).
The agreement has seen the satellite firm work with the US science agency to mitigate potential interference from SpaceX satellite transmissions and minimize impact on the National Science Foundation’s radio astronomy observatories and promise to continue working towards that goal in the future.
“We are setting the stage for a successful partnership between commercial and public endeavors that allows important science research to flourish alongside satellite communication,” said NSF director Sethuraman Panchanathan.
Starlink signs new deal with Anuvu, Thor, and Carnival
On the distribution side, Starlink has signed a number of new partners in the maritime and automotive sectors.
Anuvu, a maritime and aviation connectivity provider previously known as Global Eagle, has signed a reseller agreement with Starlink.
The company said it has been supporting customers’ Starlink installations in the cruise, energy, and yacht verticals since Starlink expanded its offerings to the maritime industry in July 2022, and is now an official reseller and integrator.
“Customers who buy Starlink from Anuvu get our expertise and customer support without any strings attached. For maritime operators adopting a LEO solution, there’s no simpler path than ours, to acquire Starlink.”
Cruise liner company Carnival Corporation is also rolling out Starlink connectivity to its fleet of ships.
The company said fleet roll-out of Starlink began in December 2022 with Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA Cruises ships, with plans to expand the company's other cruise brands, which include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Seabourn, P&O Cruises (Australia), Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises (UK), and Cunard. In total Cruise operates more than 100 ships.
"We are in the business of delivering happiness, and Starlink makes it as easy as possible for our guests to share all their great moments and memories, giving them even more joy out of their cruise vacation,” said Josh Weinstein, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "The added bandwidth will give the brands the capabilities and flexibility to introduce new guest services and features, as well as help boost operational functions like onboard equipment monitoring and real-time communications between ship and shore teams.”
Jonathan Hofeller, vice president of Starlink sales for SpaceX, added: "High-speed, low-latency broadband internet is critical in our modern age, and we're excited to provide Carnival Cruise Line and AIDA's guests an internet experience that makes their travel even more enjoyable.”
Starlink has signed distribution deals with maritime communications firms Marlink – which also has a deal in place with OneWeb – and Elcome International, as well as cruise liner providers Royal Caribbean and Hurtigruten.
US recreational vehicle (RV) manufacturer Thor Industries is to roll out Starlink connectivity to its vehicles. The company this week announced it has entered into an agreement with SpaceX to integrate Starlink flat high-performance dishes into select RVs in the US across the Thor family of companies in 2023.
Starlink panels will initially be available as optional equipment in select motorized RVs manufactured by four of the 17 Thor companies: Airstream, Entegra Coach, Jayco, and Tiffin.
"This agreement is a big step toward providing constant internet connection for RVers everywhere," said Thor Industries president and CEO Bob Martin. "Whether for work, staying in touch with family and friends, or streaming entertainment, a reliable internet connection is a must-have for today's RVer.”
SpaceX Vice president of Business Operations, Chad Gibbs, added: "We're excited to work with Thor, Airstream, Entegra Coach, Jayco and Tiffin to bring Starlink to RV owners around the world. By providing game-changing connectivity in remote locations whether parked or in motion, Starlink is expanding the boundaries of where RV-ers can explore while still staying connected to friends and family."
Starlink began taking orders for a new flat-panel antenna designed for RVs in October 2022.