from the Kessler-was-an-optimist dept.
In November, SpaceX sent a request to the FCC to partially revise plans for the company’s satellite internet constellation, known as Starlink. Under SpaceX’s original agreement with the commission, the company had permission to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers up. But then SpaceX decided it wanted to fly 1,584 of those satellites in different orbits, thanks to what it had learned from its first two test satellites, TinTin A and B. Instead of flying them at 1,150 kilometers, the company now wants to fly them much lower at 550 kilometers.
And now the FCC is on board. “This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.
"“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans.”"
SpaceX argues that by operating satellites at this orbit, the Starlink constellation will have much lower latency in signal, cutting down transmission time to just 15 milliseconds.
The first batch of satellites is already at the launch site and is expected to liftoff sometime in May. SpaceX plans to launch a total of nearly 12,000 satellites to build its Starlink satellite constellation, although most of these will be in higher orbits.
Not everyone was happy about SpaceX’s updated plans, though. OneWeb, another company developing a large satellite internet network, and satellite operator Kepler Communications both filed petitions to deny SpaceX’s request for a change to the FCC. They both argue that since SpaceX uses similar frequencies, the Starlink satellites could interfere with their satellites if moved to a lower orbit. But ultimately, the FCC did not think interference would be an issue.
There are other companies undertaking similar projects. Previously-mentioned OneWeb has already launched the initial six satellites of an eventual buildout of 650 satellites. Amazon has announced its own internet initiative called Project Kuiper which will put another 3,236 satellites in orbit.
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.
Previously: FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit
FCC Approves SpaceX Lowering Orbit of Internet Satellites
Related: SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays
SpaceX to Launch 60 Starlink Satellites at Once, and More
SpaceX Satellites Pose New Headache for Astronomers
Most of SpaceX's Starlink Internet Satellites are Already on Track
Three of SpaceX's Starlink Satellites have Failed
Near Collision Between ESA and SpaceX Satellite
After canceling business with Russia's space program, OneWeb is tapping rival SpaceX to help it launch its remaining internet satellites into orbit.
"We are pleased to announce that we have entered into a launch agreement withSpaceX that will enable OneWeb to resume satellite launches," UK-based OneWeb announced on Twitter today. The first launch of the OneWeb satellites using SpaceX rockets is scheduled for sometime later this year, the company added.
OneWeb previously relied on Russia's Roscosmos to launch the satellites. However, the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing sanctions from Europe caused Roscosmos to essentially retaliate by postponing an upcoming launch of OneWeb satellites.
Roscosmos then demanded the UK government divest itself from OneWeb. In response, the company canceled all launches through Russia's space program.
OneWeb's contingency plan of using SpaceX is a little surprising since both companies are competing in the internet satellite market. This has resulted in some bickering amongst each other in government regulatory filings. Last year, for example, OneWeb accused SpaceX's satellite internet system of colliding with its own.