SpaceX has won a $1.9m contract with the US Air Force to provide internet services to support airlift operations for Europe and Africa.
Based on unclassified documents from the US Air Force, Starlink will provide fixed-site and portable services.
For fixed-site services, internet connection will be assigned to an individual 22-km diameter Starlink cell. The connection should only work within the boundaries of the assigned cell.
The contract is for hardware and services in support of military airlift units based at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
“The general requirement is a commercial satellite internet solution using Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite with available services in Europe and Africa to support the mission of the 86 Air Lift Wing and its tenant units,” reads the contract.
“The intent of the contract is to provide either First-Generation or High-Performance satellite terminals and internet service either static/fixed site or portable/mobile to the terminals enabling users to connect devices to the internet. The expected throughput capabilities to be delivered by the Starlink high-performance terminal is up to 500Mbps download speed and low latency connectivity. The contractor shall provide internet service support for a period of performance of twelve (12) months estimated to begin 01 August 2022 – 31 July 2023,” explained the Air Force contract.
Several other companies are competing to establish LEO, medium Earth orbit (MEO) and geostationary Earth orbit(GEO) satellite internet networks, but Starlink “currently has the most well-established LEO satellite network … whereas the LEO networks of its competitors are still in their infancy,” the document stated.
The Air Force Research Laboratory and the Space Force’s Space Systems Command are running a programme called Global Lightning to test the capabilities of commercial space internet providers.
“Starlink LEO fulfils the requirement of reducing processing times and increases theatre-based operations on changing requirements and locations. It also builds in circuit resiliency through Software Defined Wide Area networking (SDWAN) for one of the units allowing for multiple transport sources. After extensive research it was found that SpaceX-Starlink is the only vendor able to provide this specialized communication service in the current areas of operation in the required time,” concluded the Air Force contract.
The expected throughput to be delivered by the Starlink high-performance terminal is up to 500 megabits per second download speed and low latency connectivity.