FCC Lets Elon Musk's SpaceX Deploy Over 7000 Satellites

Joshua Bennett
November 18, 2018

In total, the Starlink network will have 11,943 satellites orbiting Earth.

In its proposal approved Thursday, SpaceX says it plans to launch 7,518 satellites that would operate at altitudes ranging from 205 to 215 miles above the Earth. LeoSat's proposed NGSO system consists of 78 satellites, which will operate under the ITU filings of France and a planned authorization from the Netherlands. Musk has said: "It would be like rebuilding the Internet in space".

Having received approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March to launch more than 4,000 satellites, SpaceX was waiting on the government body to again approve the next batch of satellites that will make up its enormous Starlink fleet of nearly 12,000 spacecraft.

The FCC has also promised to streamline its satellite licensing rules, creating a single license for space stations and related earth stations to eliminate redundancies in the two separate licensing processes. Starlink will let the company provide a high-speed internet coverage to every corner of the world.

A couple years back SpaceX was talking up a plan that would see it put 4,425 satellites into orbit to roll out global broadband connectivity.

"It will offer high-speed internet in remote areas and global connectivity through "routers in space" for data backhaul. Our approach to these applications reflects this Commission's fundamental approach: encourage the private sector to invest and innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers", he advised. SpaceX has also said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access. SpaceX will now be under pressure to start launching its equipment, with expectations that the first batch will be launching next year. However, the FCC turned down the request, citing that SpaceX has not provided sufficient grounds for the final implementation milestone requirement to be waived. The company is planning to launch the first 4,425 satellites into the low-orbit of Earth, helping it to cut down on the latency.

SpaceX thus has to deploy half of the 7,518 newly approved satellites within six years and the remaining satellites within nine years unless it successfully re-applies for a waiver.

At the same time, the FCC announced that it will review its orbital debris mitigation rules, hoping to "incorporate improvements in debris mitigation practices into the Commission's rules".

"Orbital debris objects greater than one centimeter in diameter can cause catastrophic damage to functional spacecraft", the said.

The SpaceX network would vastly multiply the number of satellites around Earth. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained in his statement that the applications and their constellations offer the promise of introducing "variety in the burgeoning field of non-geostationary satellite services and innovative solutions to bridging the digital divide".

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