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SpaceX Starlink internet-beaming satellite service takes next step for beta test

Elon Musk says Starlink terminals are easy to install, but beta testers are liable for any damage caused setting them up.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

SpaceX's satellite broadband arm, Starlink, has emailed fans to get their home addresses in readiness for this year's beta test. 

In an email, Starlink asks users to visit its website and input details about the service address, as opposed to just their ZIP code. It also informs fans that the "Starlink private beta begins this summer with public beta to follow".

Reddit users have been digging around Starlink's website and have found some extra details about the beta trials. 

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Until now, it's been expected that people selected for the beta will receive a user terminal with a flat disc antenna with a half-meter diameter. Musk says they look like a "little UFO on a stick", which will be dead simple to install and has motors that direct itself for the best satellite signals.

Musk detailed user terminal features on Twitter in response to leaked images of the user terminals. 

"Starlink terminal has motors to self-orient for optimal view angle," wrote Musk. "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."

As of the mid-June launch, SpaceX had about 540 Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth, which is when it started inviting people to join its beta program.

According to an FAQ on the beta published on Reddit, SpaceX will kick off the beta with users in the "northern United States and lower Canada, with those living in rural and/or remote communities in the Washington State area". 

Participants also need a clear view of the northern sky because Starlink's system of satellites can only provide internet service between 44 degrees and 52 degrees north latitude.

"Without the clear view, the Starlink dish cannot make a good connection and your service will be extremely poor," warns SpaceX.  

Interestingly, the Starlink Kit for beta testers includes more than the UFO on the stick. It also has a router, which has been approved by the FCC, a power supply and mount.  

Beta testers will be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so participants won't legally be allowed to share their experience online. 

It also warns users that the service quality will be high when connected, but the connection "will not be consistent". It "may support streaming video with some buffering, but likely is not suitable for gaming or work purposes". 

SEE: SpaceX: We've launched 32,000 Linux computers into space for Starlink internet

Starlink warns beta participants against hiring anyone to install the end-user terminal and accepts no responsibility for damages caused or any rules broken. 

"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 says. 

"Do not install the Starlink Kit at your home if you do not have the authority to do so. 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." 

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