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SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit

Accepted submission by takyon at 2019-02-13 16:10:34

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 [], 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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