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posted by martyb on Monday April 29 2019, @03:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the Kessler-was-an-optimist dept.

The FCC has approved a modification to SpaceX's plan to loft 1,500 low orbit satellites to provide internet service to all parts of the globe.

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.

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  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29 2019, @12:17PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29 2019, @12:17PM (#836235)

    The reusable booster stuff is a quantum leap in a lot of areas.

    Looks like the Internet over Sats will be too. New areas include:

    1) A latency war with leapfrogging to lower orbits, and X both fighting and providing launches for their opponents.
    2) Much faster, but predictable packet route changing will lead to proactive routing.
    3) Tracking and dealing with a much increased level of junk in some orbits due to a few less than perfect birds.
    4) Quants figuring out how to use the predictable latency variations to make new trading schemes.
    5) A disruption in the sat construction business model just like happened in the boosters.
    6) Likewise low cost RF earth stations and free space optical.
    7) Lord knows what else?

    Grab your popcorn, should be a great show!

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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday April 29 2019, @05:47PM

    by takyon (881) <> on Monday April 29 2019, @05:47PM (#836315) Journal

    The idea of big and cheap payloads lifted by BFR is important. If you can lift 10x the mass and 100x the volume at 1/5th the price, suddenly you don't have to worry about making your sat compact or out of lightweight materials (which could be expensive or weaker). You can also add more attached solar panels. For space telescopes in particular, you can get very large apertures before even thinking about folding mechanisms or modularity. If BFR launch cost eventually drops down to around $10 million, it becomes competitive with smallsat launchers. Share the fairing with other payloads, and you have very cheap access to space.

    I'm not a fan of launching ultra-low-orbit sats that are just going to burn up in 1 year. However, we have a possible way to prolong orbital life while lowering the orbit further:

    Air-Breathing Electric Thruster Tested; Could Enable Long-Lived Satellites in Low Orbits []

    If someone makes a mistake and the payload becomes space junk or goes in the wrong orbit, a second rocket to retrieve the payload may be worthwhile.

    [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []