SpaceX announced on Thursday that it has signed its first contract with an airline to deliver in-flight wireless Internet via the Starlink satellite network, as it competes with other rising satellite startups to put high-speed internet on commercial airlines.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s business has been in talks with airlines for months to provide Starlink Internet in-flight, a crucial component of SpaceX’s goal to attract enterprise customers beyond consumers and homes in rural areas of the world with little to no internet connection.
The agreement is with the semi-private jet service JSX and involves equipping 100 flights with Starlink terminals, with the first Starlink-connected plane taking flight before the end of the year, according to a statement from the charter business.
A JSX spokeswoman declined to reveal the partnership’s monetary worth.
It comes as Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian stated in a recent interview that the firm was doing exploratory testing to employ Starlink technology on their aircraft.
Since 2019, SpaceX has launched approximately 2,000 Starlink satellites into low-Earth orbit, and the network, while not yet fully deployed, provides broadband internet service to thousands of customers in a few countries for $110 (€101) per month via a $599 (€553) terminal dish roughly the size of a pizza box.
Starlink has generally positioned itself as a provider of Internet connectivity to isolated or rural locations that are not currently served by broadband services. In recent weeks, SpaceX made news when it gave Starlink terminals to the Ukrainian government in the midst of the continuing Russian invasion.
Ukraine’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, asked Musk directly on Twitter for terminals to complement the country’s disrupted Internet connections.
SpaceX has applied for regulatory authority from the US Federal Communications Commission to operate Starlink on airplanes and cargo vessels, and the internet network has already been tested on a handful of Gulfstream jets as well as military aircraft.
The Starlink service aboard JSX flights will be free for JSX clients, according to the jet service’s announcement, and it will “not require checking in or other difficulties associated with legacy systems.”
Musk has previously stated that he intends to launch a constellation of approximately 42,000 satellites as part of the Starlink system in the future.