Previously, beta testers for Starlink’s “Better than Nothing Beta” reported that Starlink terminals hold up well in extreme winter conditions that include high wind and frigid temperatures. Now some Starlink users say that their terminals are experiencing shutdowns in hot weather conditions.
The thermal shutdowns are causing users to lose access to Starlink’s satellite Internet service. Some members of Reddit’s Starlink subreddit say that they received alerts that their terminals that informed them of the issue. The terminals are officially rated to a temperature of 122 degrees Fahrenheit, but some users reported seeing the thermal shutdown issue before weather conditions reached that temperature.
This seems to have thrown some shade on Starlink’s ability to function in rural regions that may need it the most. One Redditor who lives in Arizona grumbled, “By July we get 125-131 most days. I’m gonna have to switch away if what I just heard back from support is accurate. … I’m gonna have to spray it with a garden hose to reboot my internet.”
Some users theorized that high ultraviolet light exposure could be part of the issue. Higher potential ultraviolet exposure often coincides with higher temperatures due to the increased intensity of the sun’s rays during summertime. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published information on the UV Index Scale, which predicts the potential intensity of ultraviolet exposure. The National Weather Service often works with the EPA to include the expected UV Index in its weather reports.
These reports of Starlink terminals shutting down due to heat are coming in time for summer solstice, which could pose a challenge to efforts to bring broadband service to parts of the world that get intense heat during the summer months. This could especially provide an obstacle to efforts to bring reliable broadband Internet access to rural areas in the southern United States as part of SpaceX’s preliminary deal with the FCC’s RDOF program to establish service in about 642,000 locations throughout the U.S.
SpaceX already has a deal with one school district in Texas, a state that may be impacted by this issue, to provide Internet service for low-income families. Elon Musk also mentioned that SpaceX already has 500,000 preorders for Starlink service, though it was not immediately clear how many of those preorders came from customers who live in areas that can reach heat levels that might cause an overheating issue in the summer.
Starlink’s customer service indicated that moving the terminal to a cooler location such as a place with some shade could be one possible solution. SpaceX has not said whether it has plans to integrate a way to cool down overheated terminals in the near future. However, if SpaceX can figure out how to make Starlink terminals function in conditions that would normally freeze their electronic components, then it should also be able to figure out how to make them capable of withstanding conditions that seems to be air-frying them, as well.