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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 FCC.report, 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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  • (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

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  • (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) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> 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.

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    • (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.

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  • (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??)

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

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> 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) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> 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.

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      • (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!

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