SpaceX launches satellites for cell service for first time

SpaceX used a Falcon 9 rocket to launch satellites

SpaceX successfully carried six direct-to-cell satellites that will be used by T-Mobile and other carriers into Earth’s orbit earlier this week.

The Elon Musk-led aerospace company said the Starlink direct-to-cell satellites have technology that "acts as a cellphone tower in space" and helps eliminate cell service dead zones.

They launched late Tuesday from California onboard a Falcon 9 rocket along with 15 other Starlink satellites, according to SpaceX.

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T-Mobile said it will start field testing the service "soon." To start, customers will have only text messaging coverage with it, the company said.

SpaceX

SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif., April 19, 2022. ( Alisha Jucevic/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

WHERE ELON MUSK DEPLOYED SPACEX STARLINK SERVICE IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS

T-Mobile Marketing, Strategy and Products President Mike Katz called the launch a "pivotal moment for this groundbreaking alliance with SpaceX and our global partners around the world as we work to make dead zones a thing of the past."

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The wireless provider first partnered with SpaceX for direct to cell in August 2023. 

T-Mobile logo

The T-Mobile logo in Chicago Oct. 19, 2022. (Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto / Getty Images)

SpaceX said six other companies have plans to use the technology. They include Rogers in Canada, KDDI in Japan, Optus in Australia, One NZ in New Zealand, Salt in Switzerland and Entel in Chile and Peru, according to the company.

Those utilizing it "have access to reciprocal global access in all partner nations," SpaceX said on its website.

"This [technology] will allow for mobile phone connectivity anywhere on Earth," Musk wrote on his social media platform X. "Note, this only supports ~7Mb per beam and the beams are very big, so while this is a great solution for locations with no cellular connectivity, it is not meaningfully competitive with existing terrestrial cellular networks."

Musk

Elon Musk speaks onstage during The New York Times Dealbook Summit 2023 at Jazz at Lincoln Center Nov. 29, 2023, in New York City.  (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for The New York Times / Getty Images)

SpaceX will bring voice, data and other services to direct to cell next year.

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It will eventually use its reusable Starship rocket for direct-to-cell satellites, according to the aerospace company.

SpaceX has conducted 297 launches of various kinds to date. Its most recent, its Ovzon 3 mission, launched Wednesday in Florida.