A takedown of Starlink’s Dishy McFlatface dish has revealed new details about SpaceX’s satellite internet dish, including how to prevent the company from misusing its hardware for development.
Launched last year, Starlink relies on a growing group of satellites in Earth orbit and an automatic ground-based positioning dish that communicates with them.
The satellite network was in progress for SpaceX, adding several launches of Falcon 9 rockets to the network.
When this happened, the gaps in Starlink coverage were filled, and more users were added to the system.
On Earth, Starlink uses a dedicated satellite dish that connects to a special router. It is set up using the Starlink app and is designed to move automatically so as to maintain the optimum angle.
However, it has also proven to be a magnet for curiosity to see what Elon Musk’s company has done on the inside.
. represents Team One such group, who obtained the Starlink system when it was launched in Belgium at the end of May, researched Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography at the University of Leuven.
The team discovered that SpaceX was clearly repeating the design of the base dish. The team’s Starlink device is different from what has been seen in previous takedowns, and there are some differences in the connectors.
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SpaceX keeps Starlink secrets
Elon Musk recently said that the company is working to halve the cost of building each Starlink dish, given that SpaceX is currently losing money on it.
SpaceX prevents these development systems from getting outside its control. The team said the development hardware is geo-fenced to operate in previously designated areas only, most of which are clearly SpaceX sites.
He added, “The company will likely be notified if development devices are used outside of these previously defined geofences.”
This is not the only control the company has over access to the underlying systems. The team also revealed that the company had prevented users from logging into the live system.
This is done by including a scan during boot. Consumer dishes are protected before they are shipped, so the login prompt is disabled. This means that an attempt to access the dish via the UART port is prohibited.
Read also: Starlink wants 500,000 users over the next year