Starlink’s self-heating internet satellite dishes attract cats

Photo: Olena Khudiakova/Ukrinform/Barcroft Media (Getty Images)

SpaceX’s Starlink is making steady gains from its fledgling satellite internet service, more than 100,000 terminals shipped in 2021 and showing promising improvements in performance after the initial speed tests yielded mediocre results. However, the company runs into an unforeseen hiccup with its dishes: cats love it.

“Starlink works great until the cats discover that the dish gives off a little heat on cold days,” tweeted Starlink user Aaron Taylor.

His recent photo of five cats huddled on a Starlink platter went viral. In the photo, the Starlink saucer is installed on the ground and surrounded by snow. As noted by the Tesla and SpaceX-focused news outlet and store Tesmanian, the court’s Snow Melt mode may be to blame. launched in 2020, this feature allows dishes to use self-heating capabilities to prevent snow buildup from interfering with the signal — apparently providing a nice outdoor lounging area for critters.

Another possible explanation: cats are just assholes. When other users suggested alternative solutions to keep the cats warm amid record-heavy snowfall, Taylor allayed their concerns:

“They have free access to the heated house and come and go as they please. They are there by their own choice,” he wrote on Twitter. He continued say the cats will “voluntarily leave” [the] heated cat house” to catch some his on the saucer. It happens when the sun shines, regardless of the temperature, because “the internal dish heater heats up from below and the sun from above.”

Basically, these cats have plenty of other places to hide from the cold or laze in the sun, but they choose to sit on a $499 terminal instead. As any cat owner can attest, it follows.

While being overweight can potentially damage the device, it remains unclear to what extent this kind of cute contamination could have on the dish’s signal.

On Twitter, Taylor said all those hairy butts parked on top of the dish managed to slow down the service’s performance and interrupt the live streams of movies, but didn’t completely block the service. It seems that cats aren’t the only animals flocking to Starlink’s dishes. In response to Taylor’s tweet, another Twitter user shared a photo of a bird perched on a bird, along with the caption, “Different species, same problem.”

To be fair, SpaceX can’t do much to prevent animals from hiding in its Starlink equipment, other than recommending users install them in hard-to-reach places. Taylor said on Twitter that he plans to do just that, as the court’s location on a concrete pad on the ground is only temporary once he finishes building a new home.

To date, SpaceX has deployed approximately 1,800 satellites as part of its goal to provide high-speed Internet to rural areas with Starlink. The company plans to eventually launch 42,000 of these satellites into low Earth orbit by mid-2027. In AugustStarlink made headlines when Ookla, the company behind one of the most widely used internet speed tests, showed that it was much faster than other satellite internet services like HughesNet and Viasat and could almost rival fixed broadband when it came to upload and download speed tests.

After months of promises from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk missed deadlines, Starlink finally came out of beta in October. But the success was short-lived, as the ongoing global chip shortage has squeezed production and delayed orders until late 2022 and 2023. At least now the company knows its products can serve as a cat house when it gets desperate.

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