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posted by martyb on Thursday October 17 2019, @07:17AM   Printer-friendly
from the orbital-mechanics-is-circular-reasoning dept.

SpaceX submits paperwork for 30,000 more Starlink satellites

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.

Starlink.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17 2019, @12:35PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17 2019, @12:35PM (#908256)

    "Hey boss, remember I thought we could build the network with 12k, well it looks more like 30k."

    Dilbert excepted, given the resources required to put up any, is it plausable that the estimate was that wrong?

    The game is early here, should any request show that there is still at least half of the available resource left.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @01:05PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @01:05PM (#908266) Journal

      12k + 30k.

      A SpaceX spokeperson declined to respond to Farrar’s comments, but sent SpaceNews a statement saying it “SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs.”

      There are all kinds of users:

      SpaceX sees U.S. Army as possible customer for Starlink and Starship [spacenews.com]

      SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell appeared on a panel Wednesday alongside U.S. Army leaders who talked about their efforts to modernize the force and bring more innovation into military procurement.

      [...] Army officials speaking at the AUSA event Oct. 15 [spacenews.com] said they are considering tapping into commercial LEO megaconstellations to support the service’s demands for higher capacity and lower latency communications.

      The bottom line is that these satellites are relatively cheap, the launch capability will become super cheap (Starship), and they can begin operating with a small fraction of the total, scaling up over the years.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Thursday October 17 2019, @01:49PM (1 child)

    by Immerman (3985) on Thursday October 17 2019, @01:49PM (#908287)

    They can't keep the relative handful of satellites they've already launched in their designated orbits (as evidenced by the EU having to move their satellite to dodge one of the starlinks a short while back), but hey, they promise that with 40,000 more they'll do better...

    This is sounding to me more and more like a low-orbit "land-grab" - if ~95% of all satellites in orbit belong to SpaceX (there's currently 2,271 total satellites in orbit), and they can't be bothered to keep them in their designated orbit... who else is going to be willing to risk putting their satellites in low orbit?

    Fortunately they're low enough that any Kessler Syndrome would be short-lived, but it's still not a comforting scenario.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:42PM

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:42PM (#908322) Journal

      They can't keep the relative handful of satellites they've already launched in their designated orbits (as evidenced by the EU having to move their satellite to dodge one of the starlinks a short while back)

      Fake news. One prototype satellite had a small chance of hitting another satellite, and it was hyped up by the ESA. The communication issue can be attributed to it being their first batch. So yes, they will do better with the next 40,000.

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  • (Score: 1) by oumuamua on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:18PM (3 children)

    by oumuamua (8401) on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:18PM (#908302)

    SpaceX is not the only player in the game.
    Amazon and OneWeb will also likely 'need' additional satellites.
    That is then well over 100,000 satellites that will need to be tracked and monitored... unless ... can they all share a satellite constellation?
    Very similar to the problem of utility poles and cable wires and that did not work out well.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:36PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:36PM (#908318) Journal

      The volume of space surrounding Earth is large enough to accommodate millions or billions of satellites.

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      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:47PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 17 2019, @02:47PM (#908325)

        "The volume of space surrounding Earth is large enough to accommodate millions or billions of satellites."

        Yes, most of the time.

        But the tracking and control infrastructure doesn't yet know how to coordinate to make it essentially all the time.
        So, you get orbital bands. Are those in unlimited supply?

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @03:06PM

          by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @03:06PM (#908336) Journal

          They are going through the proper channels to gain permission to launch these. If it can't be done, they'll be informed of that fact. Maybe they will be asked to invest in expanding the tracking and control infrastructure as a compromise, since they'll be the world's largest user for a while.

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  • (Score: 2) by istartedi on Thursday October 17 2019, @05:22PM (3 children)

    by istartedi (123) on Thursday October 17 2019, @05:22PM (#908392) Journal

    Whatever service is going to be offered by this, I'd like to boycot it before it even gets off the ground. Come on, Elon. You've got some cool ideas. This is not one of them.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @05:53PM (2 children)

      by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @05:53PM (#908404) Journal

      Many millions of people living outside of cities would disagree with you.

      The satellites are designed to deorbit. Impacts on astronomy are manageable. Compare 42,000 within multiple orbits to the number of cars on Earth. They won't be hitting each other very often.

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      • (Score: 2) by edIII on Thursday October 17 2019, @08:48PM (1 child)

        by edIII (791) on Thursday October 17 2019, @08:48PM (#908481)

        Impacts on astronomy are manageable

        Just like a walk up Mt. Everest is "manageable". It apparently takes quite a bit of sophistication and effort to remove the effects of satellites and our activity from space from the data. Here's [nasa.gov] an example with a good explanation. You can click the photo to see before and after processing. Notice the before picture. That's now, what the heck would it look like with 40,000 more satellites in LEO?

        You're understating the amount of effort required, and missing that it's not actually possible to get a clean picture of space anymore. Space now requires photoshop to look good :)

        --
        Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Thursday October 17 2019, @10:54PM

          by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Thursday October 17 2019, @10:54PM (#908555) Journal

          It all comes down to exposures and exposure times, the field of view of the telescope, etc. Almost all useful astronomy involves data processing already. The image you linked represents over 18.5 hours of data. No wonder there are trails in it.

          The issue is unavoidable as Earth becomes space-faring (for real). Might as well get used to it soon.

          SpaceX offers both the "problem" and solution with one rocket. Starship will make it very cheap to launch hundreds of Starlink satellites at a time, and it will also make it cheap to launch lots of tiny and gigantic space telescopes. Space telescopes will become much larger and more capable than ground-based telescopes, since they don't have to deal with the same mechanical stresses. Maybe you can get to 100-meter aperture on Earth (e.g. OWL [wikipedia.org] or Colossus [the-colossus.com]). In space we could see 1000-meter or larger modular telescopes, swarms of telescopes [nautilus-array.space], easier optical inteferometry [harvard.edu], etc. These can be placed above all of the broadband constellation satellites or further out at L2. Construction of new large ground-based telescopes will slow down, although we may see some being built on the Moon. The existing ones will still get plenty of use as long as there is budget for it, even with all of the satellites zipping around.

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