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Japanese military tests SpaceX's Starlink satcom services

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Starlink payload launches from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on 17 December 2022. The Japan Self-Defense Forces has been testing the communication capabilities offered by Starlink at 10 sites across the country. (Joshua Conti/US Space Force)

The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) has been testing SpaceX's Starlink satellite communication (satcom) services since March, a spokesperson for the Japanese Ministry of Defense (MoD) told Janes on 27 June.

“In recent years, the threat towards the safe use of space is increasing,” the spokesperson said, adding that this makes it necessary to boost satcom resiliency by utilising multiple satellite systems.

This has prompted the JSDF to test commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations including Starlink, the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that at present, the JSDF is testing the Starlink satcom services at “10 sites”.

“The contract to test Starlink will last till the end of March 2024,” the spokesperson said.

“As we will need to deliberate on the results of Starlink's resiliency and effectiveness after the demonstration, the timing on when the MoD/JSDF will decide whether we will officially acquire Starlink is not yet determined,” the spokesperson added.

According to SpaceX, the Starlink constellation consists of thousands of satellites that orbit the Earth at an altitude of about 550 km, resulting in low latency of around 25 ms.

The Starlink satcom services have been used extensively by the Ukrainian military since February 2022 to communicate and co-ordinate strikes amid the ongoing conflict with Russia.

In early June the United States contracted SpaceX to continue providing the Starlink satcom services to Ukraine since the company was finding it difficult to independently bear the rising costs associated with these services.

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