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posted by chromas on Saturday March 23 2019, @11:10AM   Printer-friendly

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


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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Ayn Anonymous on Sunday March 24 2019, @12:25AM (4 children)

    by Ayn Anonymous (5012) on Sunday March 24 2019, @12:25AM (#818869)

    Hi,

    SpaceX Starlink is designed to stay.
    The plan is to beat terrestrial fiber links with *halve* the latency.
    And this is a physical (speed of light in vacuum vs. fiber cable) advantage that one can only beat with terrestrial vacuum cable.
    Unlikely to happen the next 50+ years.
    SpaceX plan is to finance the whole mars endeavor with Starlink's profits.

    It will be very interesting to reverse engineer Starlink's phase array antenna https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phased_array [wikipedia.org] .
    Build from likely multi-hundred computer controlled single antennas.
    The phase array antenna is the ground key element that makes it possible to track/follow and switch LEO satellite in microseconds without physical movement.
    First time one can put hands on affordable phase array antenna.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by Ayn Anonymous on Sunday March 24 2019, @01:06AM (1 child)

    by Ayn Anonymous (5012) on Sunday March 24 2019, @01:06AM (#818874)

    More info:
    http://nrg.cs.ucl.ac.uk/mjh/starlink/ [ucl.ac.uk]
    Last update: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/9wnmzz/revised_starlink_animation_after_nov_8_update/ [reddit.com]

    One of the most interesting projects I ever heard about.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday March 24 2019, @04:34AM

      by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday March 24 2019, @04:34AM (#818918) Journal

      SpaceX will be lifting a lot of sats if they are burning up every 7 or so years. It would be interesting to see this technology [soylentnews.org] get used, enabling sats to fly even closer than 335 km, reducing latency even further.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by takyon on Sunday March 24 2019, @04:25AM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Sunday March 24 2019, @04:25AM (#818914) Journal

    I don't think the initial BFR Mars plans will even cost that much. It looks like the development costs for BFR could be near the low estimates ($2 billion), and Musk has indicated that BFR could cost less than Falcon 9 to build [teslarati.com], which is sensational if it turns out to be the case. The obvious advantage of BFR is that a single one could be reused dozens or hundreds of times, but it would be crazy if expendable BFR (such as an expended booster, and Starship sent to a destination with no hope for recovery) was cheaper than Falcon 9.

    The plan has been to send 2 unmanned BFRs filled with equipment (could be a lot more expensive than the rocket), and 1 manned mission around 2024. If these landings are achieved, there will be a lot of outside interest and funding, to include selling BFR Mars tickets to the grizzled pioneers who would have to set up colony facilities, and hopefully NASA dumping money to send rovers, equipment, and/or astronauts. SpaceX can continue to act as a launch provider rather than a colony builder.

    Starlink revenue is important because if it becomes the wild success that has been predicted, it would allow SpaceX to protect itself from the risks of the launch market. Launch is one of the smallest pieces of the space industry pie, and SpaceX's high launch cadence can actually deprive itself of customers, since it could fulfill all the demand / launch backlog. Lower-priced fully reusable BFR launches could increase the pace again due to the lower price tag, but that won't necessarily translate into more profits for SpaceX, and it might take years for new companies, universities, etc. to adapt and start building payloads. Starlink could allow SpaceX to print money, hopefully in perpetuity, and allow it to take even bigger risks (think the 12-meter diameter ITS [wikipedia.org], its own orbital facility, slapping some VASIMR engines on its spacecraft, whatever).

    We should be wary of any latency claims. It makes sense but you never know until independent reviewers test it out. Well, I guess you might get an idea beforehand if fintechs get to try out intercontinental links for high frequency trading before home Internet users get their hands on it.

    If you're a SpaceX fanboi, replacing your likely crappy ISP with Starlink would be a great way to support the company. That said, I would be surprised if SpaceX or a subsidiary directly handles customer relations. I think SpaceX will allow middlemen ISPs to do the hard work of building up the customer base and handling the various customer service issues for them, so that SpaceX is a step removed from all of that.

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    • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday March 25 2019, @03:57PM

      by Freeman (732) on Monday March 25 2019, @03:57PM (#819590) Journal

      This is one potential customer that would be elated to have an ISP that actually wants to provide service to me. As opposed to AT&T who won't give me DSL, even though the house next door (100 ft or so) has it. Then there's the Fixed Wireless provider that I had that can't service me, because their equipment is pointed in the wrong direction. So, I'm going to have to find a new Fixed Wireless provider and pay them $100-$300 for an install with possibly a 12/24 month service contract.

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