FCC approves SpaceX plan to put over 7,000 satellites in orbit

Todd Singleton
November 18, 2018

SpaceX got the green light this week from U.S. authorities to put a constellation of almost 12,000 satellites into orbit in order to boost cheap, wireless internet access by the 2020s.

The Commission granted SpaceX's application with certain conditions, authorizing SpaceX to construct, deploy, and operate a new very-low-Earth orbit constellation of more than 7,000 satellites using V-band frequencies. The deal means SpaceX is primed to build on its already formidable interstellar real estate, and make tangible headway in its pursuit of a space-based internet. Several thousand small spacecraft will be at a height 335-346 kilometers, others "lift" to the height 1110-1325 kilometers.

Satellites this low in LEOs will see their orbits decay quickly before they're captured by Earth's gravity to burn-up in the atmosphere. Prototype test-flight satellites were successfully launched last February 22.

The Commission voted in favor of Musk's juggernaut, which has long held ambitions to expand global broadband internet access by way of a satellite constellation called Starlink, which the company hopes will include 12,000 satellites by the mid-2020s. These 11,943 satellites will form the expansive Starlink broadband network, created to provide worldwide high speed internet access by ensuring that at least one satellite is always above the horizon for anyone on Earth, the Verge noted.

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Canadian startup Kepler Communications and LeoSat, a company licensed from the Netherlands, also received approvals, Kepler for 140 Ku-band satellites and LeoSat for 78 Ka-band satellites. (LeoSat)-to launch satellites. The new satellites will join the existing satellites in forming the Starlink network. SpaceX's constellation got US authorization, while the other three were authorized by governments outside the USA but had sought US market access. For fun, I am including a video of the SpaceX Es'hail-2 Mission satellite launch to provide internet for the Middle East and North Africa that was done yesterday. Our approach to these applications reflects this commission's fundamental approach to encourage the private sector to invest.

An artist's conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. However, the FCC turned down the request, citing that SpaceX has not provided sufficient grounds for the final implementation milestone requirement to be waived.

"Do the math: it adds up to a next generation space race", she said.

"W$3 hile we appreciate the level of detail and analysis that SpaceX has provided for its orbital-debris mitigation and end-of-life disposal plans, we conclude that the unprecedented number of satellites proposed by SpaceX and the other NGSO FSS [fixed-satellite service] systems in this processing round will necessitate a further assessment of the appropriate reliability standards of these spacecraft, as well as the reliability of these systems' methods for deorbiting the spacecraft", the FCC said. To prevent the orbital debris, the FCC soon will come up with the rules for the satellite industry.

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