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SpaceX wins $28.7M for connectivity studies

Satellite constellation
SpaceX’s plan for global broadband satellite coverage calls for using sets of satellites orbiting at different altitudes. (PatentYogi via YouTube)

SpaceX has won a $28.7 million fixed-price contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory for experiments in data connectivity involving ground sites, aircraft and space assets — a project that could give a boost to the company’s Starlink broadband satellite service.

The contract was awarded on Dec. 19, with work due to be completed by mid-2021.

It’s part of a program called Defense Experimentation Using Commercial Space Internet, or DEUCSI, which aims to provide the Air Force with the ability to communicate via multiple satellite internet services, using common hardware elements.

That strategy would make it possible for the Air Force to switch data service providers easily — for example, if new providers decide to enter the market, or if existing providers decide to leave it.

There are also tactical reasons for switchability. “An Air Force pilot using the space internet may wish to change vendors in flight to access a more favorable spectrum or geometry,” the project’s managers said in one of their calls for proposals.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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