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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: 2) by takyon on Monday April 29 2019, @08:10PM

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Monday April 29 2019, @08:10PM (#836382) Journal

    True and here's some sauce: https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-starlink-lawyers-oneweb-critique/ [teslarati.com]

    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.”

    The safety benefits of a significantly lower orbit come into play when the potential dangers of space debris come into play. Put simply, satellites in lower orbits – particularly orbits below ~1000 km – end up experiencing far more drag from the upper vestiges of the Earth’s atmosphere, drag that acts like an automatic switch in the event that a given LEO satellite loses control. At 500 km and below, even small spacecraft with enough surface area will automatically reenter Earth’s atmosphere within just a few years (~5), while orbits around 1000-1500 km can stretch the time to reentry by a factor of 5-10, often taking decades. In other words, SpaceX’s desire to lower the initial operating orbit of ~1600 Starlink satellites would end up dramatically reducing the consequences the failure of one or several satellites would have on other spacecraft operating in the same orbital regions.

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