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posted by martyb on Wednesday February 13 2019, @05:39PM   Printer-friendly
from the that-is-only-for-the-USA dept.

SpaceX seeks FCC OK for 1 million satellite broadband Earth stations

SpaceX is seeking US approval to deploy up to 1 million Earth stations to receive transmissions from its planned satellite broadband constellation.

The Federal Communications Commission last year gave SpaceX permission to deploy 11,943 low-Earth orbit satellites for the planned Starlink system. A new application from SpaceX Services, a sister company, asks the FCC for "a blanket license authorizing operation of up to 1,000,000 Earth stations that end-user customers will utilize to communicate with SpaceX's NGSO [non-geostationary orbit] constellation."

The application was published by, a third-party site that tracks FCC filings. GeekWire reported the news on Friday. An FCC spokesperson confirmed to Ars today that SpaceX filed the application on February 1, 2019.

If each end-user Earth station provides Internet service to one building, SpaceX could eventually need authorization for more than 1 million stations in the US. SpaceX job listings describe the user terminal as "a high-volume manufactured product customers will have in their homes."

SpaceX's Air Force certification faces scrutiny from Pentagon auditor

The inspector general for the Pentagon announced yesterday that it will be reviewing how exactly SpaceX's rockets became certified to launch payloads for the US Air Force back in 2015, Bloomberg first reported. In a letter to Heather Wilson, the secretary of the Air Force, the inspector general, Michael Roark, wants to know if the certification process complied with the Air Force's guidelines for certifying new launch vehicles.

The news comes nearly four years after SpaceX fought and won the ability to launch military satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket. Before this certification, the Air Force mostly relied on a sole company to launch its payloads into space: the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But SpaceX also wanted the ability to bid for national security contracts, and the company sued the Air Force in 2014 for not allowing other providers to compete for a multi-year contract worth $11 billion.

[...] There's been renewed focus on how the Air Force procures launches lately, thanks to a recent letter from lawmakers in California — where SpaceX is located. In early February, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) wrote letter to Sec. Wilson arguing for a review of how the Air Force awards launch contracts, according to a report in Space News. The letter was in response to a recent round of contracts that the Air Force awarded in October, meant to further the development of new launch vehicles that could fly national security payloads. The awards, worth a combined $2.3 billion, went to three companies: Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. SpaceX was left out, despite the fact the company is developing a new massive rocket called the Starship.

Eventually, the Air Force will select at least two launch providers that can compete for national security contracts beginning in 2020. Since SpaceX is currently certified to launch military satellites, it's still in the running, despite not receiving the October investment from the Defense Department. But in their letter, Feinstein and Calvert argued that the recent awards created an "unfair playing field," according to Space News.

Previously: U.S. Air Force Receptive to Launches Using SpaceX's Recycled Rockets
U.S. Air Force Will Eventually Launch Using SpaceX's Reused Rockets
U.S. Air Force Certifies Falcon Heavy, Awards SpaceX $130 Million Contract for 2020 Launch
The Military Chooses Which Rockets It Wants Built for the Next Decade
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
BFR Renamed; Elon Musk's Use of Cannabis to Blame for NASA Safety Review at SpaceX and Boeing
Air Force Requirements Will Keep SpaceX From Landing Falcon 9 Booster After GPS Launch
U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $28.7 Million to Study Military Applications of Starlink

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U.S. Air Force Receptive to Launches Using SpaceX's Recycled Rockets 17 comments

The US Air Force is open to buying rides on previously flown SpaceX rockets to put military satellites into orbit, a move expected to cut launch costs for the Pentagon, the head of the Air Force Space Command said on Thursday. [...] "I would be comfortable if we were to fly on a reused booster," General John "Jay" Raymond told reporters at the USSpace Symposium in Colorado Springs. "They've proven they can do it. ... It's going to get us to lower cost."

SpaceX has so far won three launch contracts to fly military and national security satellites - business previously awarded exclusively to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. All those flights will take place on new Falcon 9 rockets.

Original Submission

U.S. Air Force Will Eventually Launch Using SpaceX's Reused Rockets 27 comments

The head of the U.S. Air Force Space Command is "completely committed" to launching future missions using reused SpaceX rockets, following certification of the reused boosters for military use:

The head of U.S. Air Force Space Command said he's "completely committed" to launching future missions with recycled rockets like those championed by SpaceX's Elon Musk as the military looks to drive down costs. It would be "absolutely foolish" not to begin using pre-flown rockets, which bring such significant savings that they'll soon be commonplace for the entire industry, General John W. "Jay" Raymond said in an interview Monday at Bloomberg headquarters in New York. "The market's going to go that way. We'd be dumb not to," he said. "What we have to do is make sure we do it smartly."

[...] The Air Force won't be able to use the recycled boosters until they're certified for military use, a process that Raymond suggested may already be in the works. "The folks out at Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles that work for me would be in those dialogues," he said, declining to specify when certification could take place. "I don't know how far down the road we've gotten, but I am completely committed to launching on a reused rocket, a previously flown rocket, and making sure that we have the processes in place to be able to make sure that we can do that safely."

SpaceX's has just added a secretive "Zuma" mission no earlier than November 10th.

Here is a recent Reddit AmA about SpaceX's "BFR" (writeup and another one).

Original Submission

U.S. Air Force Certifies Falcon Heavy, Awards SpaceX $130 Million Contract for 2020 Launch 25 comments

SpaceX just sold the US Air Force the cheapest enormous rocket it's ever bought

SpaceX has won its first contract to launch a classified military satellite on its Falcon Heavy rocket, beating out rival United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

The launch contract will cost the US Air Force $130 million, far less than the $350 million average cost of United Launch Alliance's Delta IV, previously the heaviest lifter in the US arsenal. SpaceX's disruptive business model has proven itself in the national security arena, where it has won five previous contracts since its rockets were certified to fly military missions.

The US Air Force decision signals confidence in the engineering behind the new rocket, which consists of three modified Falcon 9 cores strapped together and flew for the first time in February 2018 after seven years of development and testing.

Also at Ars Technica and Space News.

Original Submission

The Military Chooses Which Rockets It Wants Built for the Next Decade 20 comments

The military chooses which rockets it wants built for the next decade

On Wednesday, the US Air Force awarded its much-anticipated new round of "Launch Service Agreements," which provide funds to rocket companies to complete development of their boosters. There were three winners:

  • United Launch Services: $967,000,000 for the development of the Vulcan Centaur launch system.
  • Northrop Grumman: $791,601,015 for development of the Omega launch system
  • Blue Origin: $500,000,000 for the development of the New Glenn launch system

At least two other companies were believed to be in the running for these awards, as they won grants during an earlier round of funding in 2016. It was not a surprise to see Aerojet Rocketdyne fail to win an award, as that company does not appear to have a customer for its AR1 rocket engine, which the military initially supported. It was something of a surprise not to see SpaceX win an award.

[...] These are hugely consequential awards for the rocket companies. Essentially the US Air Force, which launches more complex, heavy payloads than any other entity in the world, believes these boosters will have a significant role to play in those missions during the next decade. And when the military has confidence in your vehicle, commercial satellite contracts are more likely to follow as well.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project 16 comments

Elon Musk went on firing spree over slow satellite broadband progress

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently "fired at least seven" managers in order to speed up development and testing of satellites that could provide broadband around the world, Reuters reported today.

SpaceX denied parts of the story, saying that some of those managers left of their own accord and that the firings happened over a longer period of time than Reuters claimed.

[...] Among the fired employees were SpaceX VP of Satellites Rajeev Badyal and top designer Mark Krebs, Reuters wrote. "Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites," Reuters quoted one of its sources as saying. "Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner."

Reuters described a culture clash between Musk and employees hired from Microsoft, "where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk's famously short deadlines." Badyal is a former Microsoft employee, while Krebs previously worked for Google."

Apparently, the test satellites work:

"We're using the Tintins to explore that modification," one of the SpaceX employee sources said. "They're happy and healthy and we're talking with them every time they pass a ground station, dozens of times a day."

SpaceX engineers have used the two test satellites to play online video games at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California and the Redmond office, the source said. "We were streaming 4k YouTube and playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' from Hawthorne to Redmond in the first week," the person added.

Also at SpaceNews and TechCrunch.

Related: SpaceX Deploys Broadband Test Satellites, Fails to Catch Entire Fairing
FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays

Original Submission

BFR Renamed; Elon Musk's Use of Cannabis to Blame for NASA Safety Review at SpaceX and Boeing 58 comments

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk's use of cannabis during an interview with Joe Rogan has led to safety reviews at both SpaceX and Boeing:

In addition to spurring problems for the car company Tesla, Elon Musk's puff of marijuana in September will also have consequences for SpaceX. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that NASA will conduct a "safety review" of both of its commercial crew companies, SpaceX and Boeing. The review was prompted, sources told the paper, because of recent behavior by Musk, including smoking marijuana on a podcast.

According to William Gerstenmaier, NASA's chief human spaceflight official, the review will be "pretty invasive" and involve interviews with hundreds of employees at various levels of the companies, across multiple worksites. The review will begin next year, and interviews will examine "everything and anything that could impact safety," Gerstenmaier told the Post.

[...] One source familiar with NASA's motivations said the agency has grown weary of addressing questions about SpaceX's workplace culture, from the long hours its employees work to Musk's behaviors on social media. "SpaceX is the frat house," this source said. "And NASA is the old white guy across the street yelling at them to 'Get off my lawn.'"

The "Big Falcon/Fucking Rocket" (BFR) has been renamed. The upper stage will be called Starship, while the booster will be called Super Heavy:

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted late Monday night that he has renamed the company's largest (and yet to be built) BFR rocket to Starship. Or more precisely, the spaceship portion will be called Starship. The rocket booster used to propel Starship from Earth's gravitational grasp will be called Super Heavy.

Plans to add a "mini-BFS" second stage to the Falcon 9 were scrapped less than 2 weeks after they were announced. Yet another design change for the BFR/Starship was also hinted at:

Air Force Requirements Will Keep SpaceX From Landing Falcon 9 Booster After GPS Launch 12 comments

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Air Force requirements will keep SpaceX from landing Falcon 9 booster after GPS launch – Spaceflight Now

The demands of launching the first in an upgraded line of U.S. Air Force GPS navigation satellites, including a late load of extra fuel for the spacecraft and a military policy of reserving fuel to eliminate space junk, will keep SpaceX from recovering the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket following liftoff Tuesday from Cape Canaveral, according to mission managers.

[...] The rocket's first stage will fly without the four landing legs and aerodynamic grid fins used to bring the booster back to Earth intact, according to Lee Rosen, SpaceX's vice president of customer operations and integration. The mission will be the first by SpaceX to dispose of a Falcon 9's first stage since June, and the first time one of the company's new Block 5 boosters has ever been intentionally discarded.

[...] Instead of heading due east from Cape Canaveral, as the Falcon 9 rocket does with most of its commercial communications satellite payloads, the SpaceX launcher will fly to the northeast over the Atlantic Ocean, following a trajectory roughly parallel to the U.S. East Coast. Launching toward the northeast reduces the extra boost in speed a rocket naturally receives from Earth's eastward rotation, meaning it needs to burn more propellant accelerate the GPS satellite into the proper orbit.

Air Force and SpaceX officials cited those factors, along with the weight of the first GPS 3-series satellite — designated GPS 3 SV01 — and "uncertainty" in the Falcon 9's performance to such an orbit, as reasons for deciding to forego a landing of the Falcon 9 booster on Tuesday's mission.

The Air Force also has to comply with a government policy instituted in recent years to avoid leaving spent rocket stages in orbit, and the Falcon 9's upper stage will reignite after releasing the GPS 3 SV01 satellite to target a controlled destructive re-entry back into Earth's atmosphere a few hours later. Mission designers had to set aside some of the rocket's fuel for the de-orbit burn to satisfy the Air Force requirement, which is aimed at preventing space junk.

Original Submission

U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $28.7 Million to Study Military Applications of Starlink 5 comments

SpaceX's Starlink eyed by US military as co. raises $500-750M for development

In a reasonably predictable turn of events, SpaceX has been awarded a healthy $28.7M contract to study, develop, and test possible military applications of its prospective Starlink internet satellite constellation.

Previously reported by Teslarati in August 2018, FCC applications related to Starlink revealed that SpaceX had plans to develop and test Starlink interconnectivity with conformal antenna arrays installed on aircraft, all but directly pointing to military involvement with a reference to the need for aerial maneuvers "[representative] of a high-performance aircraft."

Around the same time as those FCC documents surfaced, the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) spoke with AviationWeek about plans to experiment with the potential capabilities offered by a flurry of proposed low Earth orbit (LEO) internet satellite constellations, including the likes of SpaceX's Starlink, OneWeb, a Telesat network, and others. While no specific companies were fingered in AFRL's public statements, it was far too convenient to be a coincidence. Four months later, the below transaction was published in the Department of Defense's running list of new contract awards:

"[SpaceX], Hawthorne, California, has been awarded a $28,713,994 competitive, firm-fixed-price ... agreement for experimentation ... in the areas of establishing connectivity [and] operational experimentation ... [and] will include connectivity demonstrations to Air Force ground sites and aircraft for experimental purposes. For the proposed Phase 2, the awardee proposes to perform experiments [with] early versions of a commercial space-to-space data relay service and mobile connectivity directly from space to aircraft." – Department of Defense, FBO FA8650-17-S-9300

Previously: FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising $500 Million in Funding; Now Valued at $30.5 Billion

Original Submission

SpaceX Protests NASA's Award of "Lucy" Launch Contract to ULA 16 comments

SpaceX protests NASA launch contract award

SpaceX has filed a protest over the award of a launch contract to United Launch Alliance for a NASA planetary science mission, claiming it could carry out the mission for significantly less money.

The protest, filed with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Feb. 11, is regarding a NASA procurement formally known as RLSP-35. That contract is for the launch of the Lucy mission to the Trojan asteroids of Jupiter, awarded by NASA to ULA Jan. 31 at a total cost to the agency of $148.3 million. The GAO documents did not disclose additional information about the protest, other than the office has until May 22 to render a decision. NASA said that, as a result of the protest, it's halted work on the ULA contract.

[...] SpaceX confirmed that the company was protesting the contract. "Since SpaceX has started launching missions for NASA, this is the first time the company has challenged one of the agency's award decisions," a company spokesperson said in a statement to SpaceNews. "SpaceX offered a solution with extraordinarily high confidence of mission success at a price dramatically lower than the award amount, so we believe the decision to pay vastly more to Boeing and Lockheed for the same mission was therefore not in the best interest of the agency or the American taxpayers," the spokesperson added. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

[...] A key factor in the decision to award the contract to ULA was schedule certainty. Lucy has a complex mission profile with a series of flybys in order to visit several asteroid either leading or following Jupiter in its orbit around the sun. That results in a launch window that is open for only about 20 days in October 2021. Should the launch miss that window, the mission cannot be flown as currently planned.

Could it be retaliation for recent audits? Still, a matter of ±$70 million or so is almost nothing compared to the billions being spent annually on the Space Launch System.

Lucy (spacecraft) and trojans.

Also at Ars Technica and Teslarati.

Previously: NASA Selects Two Missions to Visit Asteroids

Original Submission

SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits 6 comments

SpaceX's Starlink satellite lawyers refute latest "flawed" OneWeb critique

After years of relentless legal badgering from internet satellite constellation competitor OneWeb, SpaceX's regulatory and legal affairs team appears to have begun to (in a professional manner) lose patience with the constant barrage.

On February 21st, SpaceX published a withering refutation of OneWeb's latest criticism that offered a range of no-holds-barred counterarguments, painting the competitor – or at least its legal affairs department – as an entity keen on trying to undermine Starlink with FCC-directed critiques based on flawed reasoning, false assumptions, misinterpretations, and more. Alongside a number of memorable one-liners and retorts, legal counselors William Wiltshire and Paul Caritj and SpaceX executives Patricia Cooper and David Goldman openly "wonder whether OneWeb would be satisfied with SpaceX operating at any altitude whatsoever."

In late 2018, SpaceX filed a request with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) that would allow the company to significantly modify parts of its Starlink satellite constellation license, cutting 16 spacecraft from the original total of 4425 and moving Phase 1's now-1584 satellites from an operating altitude of ~1100-1300 km (680-810 mi) to just 550 km (340 mi). Aside from further reducing the latency of communications, SpaceX also argues that "the principal reason" behind lowering the operational altitude of the first ~37% of Starlink satellites was "to [further] enhance the already considerable space safety attributes of [the] constellation."

[...] [There] is a great deal more irony to be found in OneWeb's attempt to block SpaceX from lowering the orbit of its first ~1600 satellites. In 2017 and 2018, the company repeatedly complained to the FCC about the fact that SpaceX's Starlink constellation was to nominally be placed in orbits from ~1100-1300 km, effectively sandwiching OneWeb's own ~1200 km constellation. OneWeb continues to demand an unreasonable level of special treatment from the FCC, hoping that the commission will allow it to establish a sort of buffer zone extending 125 km above and below its own constellation, basically demanding that a huge swath of low Earth orbit be OneWeb's and OneWeb's alone. In reality, this is likely nothing more than a thinly veiled anti-competitive tactic, in which success would almost entirely bar other prospective space-based internet providers from even considering the same orbit.

Starlink and OneWeb satellite constellations.

Related: Competing Communications Constellations Considered
Airbus and OneWeb Begin Building Satellites for Internet Constellation
FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
U.S. Air Force Awards SpaceX $28.7 Million to Study Military Applications of Starlink
Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit

Original Submission

Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit 15 comments

Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite 'Project Kuiper' constellation

Amazon is joining the race to provide broadband internet access around the globe via thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, newly uncovered filings show.

The effort, code-named Project Kuiper, follows up on last September's mysterious reports that Amazon was planning a "big, audacious space project" involving satellites and space-based systems. The Seattle-based company is likely to spend billions of dollars on the project, and could conceivably reap billions of dollars in revenue once the satellites go into commercial service.

It'll take years to bring the big, audacious project to fruition, however, and Amazon could face fierce competition from SpaceX, OneWeb and other high-profile players.

[...] The filings lay out a plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit — including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610 kilometers); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630-kilometer) orbits.

In response to GeekWire's inquiries, Amazon confirmed that Kuiper Systems is actually one of its projects.

"Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision."

Amazon said the satellites would provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south. About 95 percent of the world's population lives within that wide swath of the planet.

SpaceX's First Dedicated Starlink Launch Set for May; Amazon Hired SpaceX Execs for Project Kuiper 7 comments

SpaceX's first batch of operational Starlink satellites will launch no earlier than May 2019:

SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing.

R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team's work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible. With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months.

[...] According to SpaceX filings with the FCC, the first group of operational satellites – potentially anywhere from 75 to 1000 or more – will rely on just one band ("Ku") for communications instead of the nominal two ("Ku" and "Ka"), a change that SpaceX says will significantly simplify the first spacecraft. By simplifying them, SpaceX believes it can expedite Starlink's initial deployment without losing a great deal of performance or interfering with constellations from competitors like OneWeb.

Amazon's planned 3,236-satellite broadband constellation, Project Kuiper, is being developed by former SpaceX employees:

Amazon's satellite internet plan is increasingly looking like the one Elon Musk has at SpaceX, with thousands of spacecraft that are compact in size. Among the reasons for the similarities, people tell CNBC, is that Jeff Bezos has hired some of Musk's previous senior management.

Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and a couple members of his team are now leading Amazon's Project Kuiper, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

[...] Badyal previously ran the "Starlink" division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year. [...] Musk fired Badyal in June, one of the people said, confirming reports last year that the SpaceX CEO had become frustrated with the pace of Starlink's development. That was about four months after the launch of the first two Starlink test satellites. According to FCC documents, Starlink will become operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.

Previously: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit
SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits

Related: Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat

Original Submission

SpaceX Requests Permission to Launch an Additional 30,000 Starlink Satellites, to a Total of 42,000+ 12 comments

SpaceX submits paperwork for 30,000 more Starlink satellites

SpaceX has asked the International Telecommunication Union to arrange spectrum for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites. SpaceX, which is already planning the world's largest low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation by far, filed paperwork in recent weeks for up to 30,000 additional Starlink satellites on top of the 12,000 already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC, on SpaceX's behalf, submitted 20 filings to the ITU for 1,500 satellites apiece in various low Earth orbits, an ITU official confirmed Oct. 15 to SpaceNews.

[...] In its filings, SpaceX said the additional 30,000 satellites would operate in low Earth orbit at altitudes ranging from 328 kilometers to 580 kilometers.

[...] It is not guaranteed that, by submitting numerous filings, SpaceX will build and launch 30,000 more satellites. Tim Farrar, a telecom analyst critical of SpaceX, tweeted that he was doubtful the ITU will be able to review such big filings in a timely manner. He sees the 20 separate filings as a SpaceX effort to "drown the ITU in studies" while proceeding with its constellation.

Nothing a Starship can't launch.


More coverage:

Original Submission

SpaceX to Become World's Largest Satellite Operator; Launch, Booster Landing Successful [UPDATED] 18 comments

[UPDATE (20200107_023514 UTC): Launch went off smoothly and on time. Booster landed safely on the drone ship. Second stage is in proper orbit and currently in coast phase leading up to satellite deployment.]

With Monday night launch, SpaceX to become world's largest satellite operator:

In 2019 SpaceX launched two batches of 60 Starlink satellites—one experimental, and the second operational. On Monday, the company plans to add 60 more satellites with a nighttime launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

If all goes to plan, this mission will be just the first of as many as 20 Starlink launches this year as SpaceX builds up a constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide global Internet service. SpaceX may begin to offer "bumpy" service by the middle of this year to some consumers.

Following this next launch, scheduled for 9:19pm ET Monday (02:19 UTC Tuesday), SpaceX will have a constellation of nearly 180 satellites in low-Earth orbit, each weighing a little more than 220kg. This will make the company simultaneously the world's largest private satellite operator (eclipsing Planet Labs), while also being the most active private launch company.

[...] Monday night's launch attempt will occur on a Falcon 9 first stage that has flown three times previously, in September 2018 (Telstar 18 VANTAGE), January 2019 (Iridium-8), and May 2019 (the first experimental Starlink mission). After launching, the first stage will land on the "Of Course I Still Love You" droneship offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. Another vessel, "Ms. Tree," will attempt to recover a payload fairing half. The Starlink satellites themselves will deploy at 61 minutes into the mission, at an altitude of 290km.

A webcast of the mission should begin about 15 minutes prior to launch.

Link to the YouTube webcast.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

SpaceX Approved to Deploy 1 Million U.S. Starlink Terminals; OneWeb Reportedly Considers Bankruptcy 33 comments

SpaceX gets FCC license for 1 million satellite-broadband user terminals

SpaceX has received government approval to deploy up to 1 million user terminals in the United States for its Starlink satellite-broadband constellation.

SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for the license in February 2019, and the FCC announced its approval in a public notice last week. The FCC approval is for "a blanket license for the operation of up to 1,000,000 fixed earth stations that will communicate with [SpaceX's] non-geostationary orbit satellite system." The license is good for 15 years.

[...] One million terminals would only cover a fraction of US homes, but SpaceX isn't necessarily looking to sign up huge portions of the US population. Musk said at the conference that Starlink will likely serve the "3 or 4 percent hardest-to-reach customers for telcos" and "people who simply have no connectivity right now, or the connectivity is really bad." Starlink won't have lots of customers in big cities like LA "because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough," he said.

SpaceX's main Starlink constellation competitor is running out of money

OneWeb, the only pressing competitor facing SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation, has reportedly begun to consider filing for bankruptcy shortly before the London-based company completed its third dedicated launch.

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  • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Wednesday February 13 2019, @09:15PM (14 children)

    by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @09:15PM (#800736) Journal

    Custodianship of the airwaves (and space, for that matter) is supposed to be on the grounds that it serves the public. Does putting what will eventually be 12,000 pieces of space junk and one million ground stations serve the public interest that much? I'm not saying that it doesn't, but that seems like an awful lot of stuff for one company to be allowed to put up. Then again, I just may not be thinking of scale properly - a truly worldwide internet service available absolutely everywhere on the planet's surface may well make such a concession worthwhile. (And maybe they have a plan for the space junk to deorbit it....)

    This sig for rent.
    • (Score: 3, Informative) by stormreaver on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:27PM

      by stormreaver (5101) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:27PM (#800756)
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:35PM (10 children)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:35PM (#800763) Journal

      The FCCs area of concern is about efficient* spectrum use. (and the ability of ISPs and cable tv providers to screw everyone)

      Somebody else cares about space junk. I doubt any current satellites get launched without having a plan in place how they will be de-orbited when their operational life is up.

      As those satellites move toward you and away from you, the frequencies they use are doppler shifted as seen by the ground station. Thus it is nesecelery to license a bigger piece of spectrum than the satellites actually transmit on. Because other pesky ground based observers also see those doppler shifted frequencies.

      If the service is global, frequencies can be re-used. Like celluloid phone systems re-use frequences in cells that are far enough apart. But you might be able to see satellites all across the dome of the sky. Overhead they might be only 200 miles away. But closer to the horizon a satellite still in view might be a couple thousand miles away.

      If anybody is ever going to build a LEO satellite worldwide internet system, they will need to put up a lot of satellites. But why would StarLink need so many satellites compared to, say, existing sat phone systems which only have dozens of satellites, generally under 100.

      *efficient (noun): achieving a goal using the fewest fish possible

      Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:41PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 13 2019, @10:41PM (#800767)

        Orbit. The existing sat-phone satellites are at a much higher altitude, which increases the latency of communication. The whole point of Starlink is that the satellites will be low enough that the latency is comparable to cable, which makes them usable for a lot of home internet uses (particularly gaming) that current satellite internet sucks at. But being lower means they'll need a lot more of them to cover the territory, since the signal is all line-of-sight.

        Honestly, it's about the only chance we have in the US of breaking up the local ISP monopoly/duopoly situation.

        • (Score: 2) by NateMich on Thursday February 14 2019, @02:43AM (1 child)

          by NateMich (6662) on Thursday February 14 2019, @02:43AM (#800842)

          Honestly, it's about the only chance we have in the US of breaking up the local ISP monopoly/duopoly situation.

          Yes, because just about any local business can now launch thousands of satellites and start a competing service.

          • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:06AM

            by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:06AM (#800855) Journal

            AC is correct. You already have a monopoly/duopoly in many areas, and SpaceX's Starlink has the potential to cover anybody, no matter how rural they are.

            Starlink is only an improvement to the existing situation, and will have to compete with DSL, cable, fiber, cellular, etc.

            SpaceX may have a monopoly within the low Earth orbit broadband satellite market (potential competitors could include OneWeb, Telesat, and others). Since SpaceX has the industry's cheapest rocket launches, and could launch even cheaper once fully reusable BFR/Starship is working, competitors would have to decide whether to pay SpaceX in order to reduce their own costs. SpaceX could even refuse to launch for competitors. And SpaceX will launch for itself with no markup. But all that doesn't mean that SpaceX can dominate on the ground.

            [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:31PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:31PM (#801012) Journal

          Orbit. The existing sat-phone satellites are at a much higher altitude, which increases the latency of communication.

          Iridium satellites are in low earth orbit (LEO). Not geosynchronous which increases latency.

          Honestly, it's about the only chance we have in the US of breaking up the local ISP monopoly/duopoly situation.

          I hear you. I've thought the same for several years.

          Trump is a poor man's idea of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man, and a stupid man's idea of a smart man.
      • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Wednesday February 13 2019, @11:32PM (5 children)

        by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Wednesday February 13 2019, @11:32PM (#800785) Journal

        Actually, as far as I can tell nobody cares about space junk, or nobody with the balls to do anything about it, which is the problem. 170 million pieces of junk under 1 cm, and 670,000 between 1 and 10 cm, only 12,000 more doesn't seem like much. But then with only around 29,000 larger objects and 1,400+ operational satellites, adding 12,000 does seem like a bit more to add.

        I'm guessing power efficiency (smaller sat, less solar panels per sat, but more sats) and/or launch efficiency? (Launch 100 instead of 1 makes more sense??)

        This sig for rent.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Wednesday February 13 2019, @11:58PM (4 children)

          by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Wednesday February 13 2019, @11:58PM (#800793) Journal

          The sats will be small, they have a plan for deorbiting them (expected lifetime around 7 years each), and they could be launched around 20-100 at a time. Still a lot of launches, but not all of the sats need to be launched for the service to begin operating. Also, a fully reusable BFR would be a great tool for getting batches up cheaply. Ideally, the same rocket could launch, return to pad, and launch again every day.

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          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14 2019, @01:16AM (2 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14 2019, @01:16AM (#800814)

            They're probably going to be piggy-backing on other payloads as well to cover costs. I doubt they'll be sending up to many rockets fully loaded with these.

            • (Score: 4, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday February 14 2019, @01:45AM (1 child)

              by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Thursday February 14 2019, @01:45AM (#800824) Journal

              SpaceX doesn't have enough paying customers to do that many launches per year, especially if the Starlinks sats aren't filling the entire volume of the payload fairings. SpaceX will probably have less launches in 2019 than 2018. But they would need hundreds of launches to lift all the 10,000+ Starlink satellites.

              That's part of the reason why Starlink is so important for SpaceX. It will give them access to a revenue stream that could be several times bigger than their launch business. The launch industry is actually one of the smallest portions of the space economy.

              If a single reused Starship + Super Heavy costs $10-20 million to launch every day, and they can lift 100 or more satellites at a time, then SpaceX can get the job done relatively easily. Their competitors in the low-Earth orbit broadband business could be kinda fucked since SpaceX's costs would be an order of magnitude less.

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              • (Score: 1) by redneckmother on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:10AM

                by redneckmother (3597) on Thursday February 14 2019, @03:10AM (#800857)

                +1 Interesting.

                I'm curious about the "price point" for an individual to obtain a ground terminal, and what service would cost. I, personally, am very interested in how all this plays out, as I am "stuck" with HughesNot (no other infrastructure available in the hinterlands). Latency and data caps are my worst problems.

                If a "slow" DSL connection were available, I'd switch in a heartbeat.

                Mas cerveza por favor.
          • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Thursday February 14 2019, @04:18PM

            by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Thursday February 14 2019, @04:18PM (#801027) Journal

            If they can deorbit them then I feel like Emily Litella. ..... nevermind!

            This sig for rent.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 14 2019, @05:27AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 14 2019, @05:27AM (#800892) Journal

      I'm not saying that it doesn't, but that seems like an awful lot of stuff for one company to be allowed to put up.

      Who should be allowed to do the disallowing? My view is that if we want big things, we need people who are allowed to do big things. The nice thing about the present business world is that it creates a huge group of people who have practical experience with big, ambitious projects. There is some need for that.

      My view is that there are huge potential drawbacks to such projects, but these aren't insurmountable. Give the people involved a chance to make their case and if they can do it without creating a trillion pieces of space junk, then I'm willing to allow them.

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Freeman on Thursday February 14 2019, @05:13PM

      by Freeman (732) on Thursday February 14 2019, @05:13PM (#801047) Journal

      Assuming, that Starlink could possibly force AT&T, et al to clean up their act. This could have huge benefits for the public it serves. Just look at what Google got started by rolling out limited availability in a few select cities.

      Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"