SpaceX request to the FCC reveals updated plans for the Starlink constellation

Evelyn Arevalo by Evelyn Arevalo September 05, 2020

SpaceX request to the FCC reveals updated plans for the Starlink constellation

Starlink Digital Illustration Created By: Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter.

SpaceX will offer broadband internet worldwide. The aerospace company is actively deploying internet-beaming Starlink satellites that will beam signals to customer’s user terminals around Earth. SpaceX is primarily focused on providing service to rural areas where the internet is unreliable and unavailable. To date, there's 708 Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit out of thousands that will make-up the network. Company officials stated that once 800 satellites are in orbit, they will roll out service in portions of the northern United States and Canada before this year comes to an end.

SpaceX already initiated a private beta testing phase of the Starlink network that has offered ‘good’ results. – “They show super-low latency and download speeds greater than 100 [megabits] per second [Mbps],” SpaceX Senior Engineer Kate Tice shared during the latest deployment broadcast, “That means our latency is low enough to play the fastest online video games and our download speeds are fast enough to stream multiple HD movies at once.” The network is “very much a work in progress,” she added, stating that as more satellites are deployed it will “unlock the full capability.” The company plans to launch 120 satellites per month in order to speed up service initiation.

On September 4, SpaceX submitted a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), asking to speed up the approval of a request submitted in April, to modify Starlink’s operational altitude to 540 - 570 kilometers (km). “SpaceX urged the Commission to act expeditiously on its proposed modification,” the document reads.  If the altitude modification is approved, the document reveals SpaceX plans to decrease the number of satellites it plans to initially deploy to 4,409 satellites in low Earth orbit. A slide in the document details the satellites proposed modification, including latitude and amount of satellites per orbital planes in which they would operate, pictured below.

“Starlink is a constellation of 4,409 satellites operation close to Earth for high-speed, low latency broadband services directly to the end-user.”  

Source: SpaceX / FCC

The company’s request to the FCC says it seeks to – “Move remaining satellites to lower altitudes of 540 km to 570 km.” Also, “Align polar shells to speed [internet] deployment to Polar Regions, including Alaska,” the company’s request states. Decreasing the satellites’ altitude also decreases the number of satellites that are visible from the ground. The satellites at a lower altitude will spend less time illuminated by the sun, which reduces the satellites’ brightness.

 

 

The company told the Commission it plans to build ground stations – “Hundreds of gateways across the U.S. to optimize service anywhere in the country.” SpaceX also provided a couple of screenshots to the FCC showcasing Starlink speeds and latency (Ping rate) from beta testers in Seattle, WA, pictured below. “…Results from beta initial tests have shown both low-latency below 30 ms [milliseconds] and download speeds greater than 100 Mbps,” SpaceX wrote to the FCC. “As it works through these beta tests, SpaceX continues to add features to unlock the full capability of the satellites and user equipment. SpaceX continues its aggressive launch schedule, and this modification is a crucial component in closing the digital divide, including service to Polar Regions,” the company wrote.

Source: SpaceX / FCC





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