Science

SpaceX Starlink satellites to serve Royal Caribbean cruise ships

Wi-Fi on Royal Caribbean cruise ships is about to get SpaceX support.

The two companies have announced that SpaceX’s Starlink internet service will enter the fleet in the coming months and end in the first quarter of 2023 during the cruise season. (will open in a new tab) Tuesday (Aug 30)

SpaceX hopes to capitalize on small cruise-focused startup OneWeb by quickly making low-cost Starlink terminals available to cruise ships struggling with notoriously slow internet speeds.

Royal Caribbean said it was the first cruise company to sign on to Starlink and described the deal as “the best onboard experience for guests and crew across the entire fleet.” (The cost has not been disclosed, but one estimate is that cruise ships will only pay $10,000 for initial setup and then a $5,000 monthly maintenance fee, a fraction of the usual costs for internet at sea.)

The cruise giant is betting that service will improve as SpaceX launches more and more Starlinks into orbit a dozen times a month. According to statistics, there are already about 3,000 active Starlinks in orbit. (will open in a new tab) from Starlink tracker Jonathan McDowell.

Related: SpaceX Starlink Mega Constellation Launches in Photos

Rival OneWeb had hoped to target the maritime and aviation industries, but its primary source of rocketry ground to a halt this winter due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The satellite rocket at Russian-controlled Baikonur in Kazakhstan was removed from the site in early March; OneWeb later signed a deal with SpaceX to get more launches relatively soon. (OneWeb was last in February, two weeks before the Feb. 24 invasion, and is busy as the company is also considering a merger with Eutelsat.)

Related: Russian invasion of Ukraine on satellite imagery

OneWeb currently has 428 satellites in orbit, two-thirds of its planned initial constellation. The company is betting on French satellite operator Eutelsat to expand satellite services by linking OneWeb’s low-earth orbit satellite suite with Eutelsat’s geostationary satellites.

Meanwhile, OneWeb has signed an agreement with Intelsat to ultimately improve aviation internet services “for airlines around the world,” the companies said in an August announcement. 11 statements (will open in a new tab).

As Starlink expands its maritime deployments, SpaceX’s mega-constellation is expected to grow at an ambitious scale. SpaceX already has permission to send 12,000 satellites into orbit and has applied for permission to send 30,000 more beyond that if the international regulator allows it.

Last week, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said he plans to partner with T-Mobile in a joint effort to connect Starlink to cell phones. This service will be provided by the Starlink Version 2 satellites, a more powerful fleet scheduled to launch next year.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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