SpaceX is building the Starlink satellite constellation to provide high-speed internet service globally. The constellation will have over 12,000 internet-beaming satellites orbiting Earth. To date, SpaceX has deployed around 1,440 satellites into an altitude of 550-kilometers above our planet. Starlink is already providing beta service to select-customers in the United States and abroad. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell recently said that the constellation will provide near-global coverage before 2021 ends. SpaceX “aims to connect rural communities in the United States and expects “to serve every rural household in the United States” –that is “roughly 60 million people,” Shotwell said. The company is already accepting service pre-orders via Starlink.com.
A year ago, SpaceX submitted a request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), seeking to modify the altitude of thousands of the satellites into lower operational orbits than previously planned. Operating Starlink satellites in lower orbits enables the constellation to provide faster broadband service around the globe. However, this request faced a lot of objections from competitors, including Amazon, OneWeb, and Viasat, that said the Starlink constellation could interfere with other satellite networks. SpaceX competitors claimed that decreasing the orbits of thousands of satellites would also increase the risk of collisions with other orbiting spacecraft or debris, to which the FCC said on April 27: “We conclude that operations at the lower altitude will have beneficial effects with respect to orbital debris mitigation. We also find that SpaceX’s modification will not present significant interference problems, as assessed under Commission precedent.”
Today the FCC approved SpaceX’s request to deploy more satellites at lower altitudes around Earth. The Commission allowed SpaceX to decrease the operational altitude of 2,814 satellites it plans to launch in the future from initially planned orbits of 1,100 to 1,300 kilometers to lower orbits of 540 to 570 kilometers. “Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems,” the FCC stated. Under the newly approved plan, SpaceX will launch a total of 4,408 satellites to operate in lower altitudes, the amount includes the satellites that are in space already. “Based on our review, we agree with SpaceX that the modification will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in often-underserved polar regions,” the FCC states. The approval comes as SpaceX prepares to launch the 25th fleet of 60 Starlink satellites on Wednesday, April 28, which will also operate at a 550-kilometer altitude in low Earth orbit.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.