SpaceX’s satellite-based internet project Starlink is a long way from providing global coverage, but select users in the U.S. and Canada will be able to get a first taste of the game-changing service as soon as this summer.
SpaceX has sent out emails to fans who have signed up as beta testers, asking them to provide home addresses, in addition to the previously requested zip codes, to get ready for network availability, TechCrunch reported late Tuesday.
“Starlink private beta begins this summer with public beta to follow,” the email said.
People selected for the beta testing will receive a Starlink user terminal, which Elon Musk says looks like a “little UFO on a stick.”
“Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle,” Musk explained in a tweet on Tuesday. “No expert installer required. Just plug in & give it a clear view of the sky. Can be in garden, on roof, table, pretty much anywhere, so long as it has a wide view of the sky.”
SpaceX promised that the Starlink user terminal will be extremely simple to install. In fact, beta testers are required to install it themselves for security reasons. They will also be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits them from sharing the user experience online.
“You are responsible for installing the Starlink Kit. Do not allow third parties, or those not associated with SpaceX, to access or install the Starlink Kit unless you obtain approval from SpaceX,” Starlink told beta users. “It is your responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable zoning, ordinances, covenants, conditions, restrictions, lease obligations and landlord/owner approvals related to the installation location.”
To date, SpaceX has launched 540 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit. About 500 of them are functioning, making the constellation large enough to provide internet access in some areas on Earth. SpaceX plans to provide basic internet services in the U.S. and Canada by the end of this year and achieve global coverage by 2021.
SpaceX’s 10th Starlink launch, originally scheduled in June, has been delayed three times due to weather and rocket check issues. A fourth attempt is expected later this month. After that, the company has two more launches planned for August and a couple more later in the year.