SpaceX has sent its first text messages between two mobile phones using the recently launched Starlink satellites.
As reported by the London Standard, the messages were sent on standard iPhones using the T-Mobile network in the US but the impressive feat was achieved on 8 January, just six days after a Falcon 9 rocket blasted the six satellites into orbit.
Starlink is SpaceX’s satellite-based network that brings internet connectivity to people around the world, particularly those in underserved locations.
Last month, Readwrite confirmed that Elon Musk’s space transport services company had been granted a limited period of 180 days by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct its smartphone tests.
SpaceX had indicated that around 840 satellites equipped with direct-to-cellular payloads would be involved, with around 60 satellites actively serving handsets in the US at any given time under the experiment.
The first test appears to have been passed with flying colors, and as the company announced the texts had been sent and received, an image was released showing a series of green bubbles carrying messages and emojis.
Texts between two phones sent through our Direct to Cell satellites in space pic.twitter.com/jd8b7uiZSq
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 11, 2024
This latest milestone will please SpaceX in its mission to provide a global mobile network service powered by satellites in space, and as stated above, it wants to bring its service to people in remote areas without needing a dedicated device or app.
The Starlink launch on 2 January was SpaceX‘s first mission of the year, but many more are scheduled to follow. It wants to launch 144 orbital missions during 2024, which would surpass the record of 98 it set last year.
Network tests will continue as the company scales to launch 840 satellites, eventually sending a signal to 2000 phones in selected US regions. Still, the rollout of general use in the U.S. for text messaging is expected to happen in late 2024. Voice, data, and smart-home connectivity are anticipated to follow in 2o25.
On the other side of the Atlantic, SpaceX has yet to confirm a UK mobile network to partner with, but if all goes to plan, that should not be a significant obstacle in its bid to enter the British market.