Communications capability is a big deal on aircraft of all sorts, but particularly for military aircraft. A new report suggests that the United States Air Force is considering SpaceX’s Starlink Internet connectivity for its potential military applications. One of the major contractors to the United States Air Force, Ball Aerospace, builds “conformal antennas” for tactical aircraft used by the USAF.
Ball Aerospace is working with SpaceX to investigate if Starlink satellite Internet connectivity might have military applications. Word of the Air Force considering Starlink came in a recent request SpaceX made with the FCC. The request said that SpaceX is seeking to make modifications to its experimental authorization for additional testing activities to be undertaken with the federal government.
The FCC document said that the tests were designed to demonstrate the ability to transmit and receive information from two stationary ground sites and an airborne aircraft with limited testing from a moving vehicle on the ground. SpaceX also disclosed that it was working with Ball Aerospace, which will provide the antennas needed for connecting to Starlink satellites on military aircraft.
Starlink testing is funded by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet program. Ball Aerospace received a $9.7 million contract last August. The USAF will begin its experimenting with the ground testing conducted near a Starlink manufacturing facility in Redmond, Washington.
After that test is complete, the Air Force will begin testing the ground-to-air scenario at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The terminal will be integrated into a single aircraft with SpaceX designing a custom installation kit that includes mechanical plates for low-profile antennas and a fairing to reduce drag to limit the impact the aircraft receiving the antenna. SpaceX anticipates the testing would require between four and six months to complete.