Featured Image Source: SpaceX Presentation to FCC
SpaceX leaders had a conference call with United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) officials on Tuesday, October 13. The conference was "with members of the Commission's International Bureau [...] SpaceX began by providing an overview of its progress to date in deploying its Starlink constellation," the company wrote in a letter to the FCC.
Starlink is part of SpaceX's plan to close the digital divide in rural communities. The company is leveraging its experience launching rockets to deploy satellites equipped to provide high speed, low-latency broadband internet globally; "Including to locations where traditionally internet has been too expensive, unreliable, or entirely unavailable," SpaceX states.
During the FCC conference call, "SpaceX updated the staff on the successful launch and operation of nearly 300 additional satellites without a failure since before its last report. SpaceX continues investing in its rapid network deployment, including launching as many as 120 satellites a month and installing extensive ground infrastructure across the country," the company stated.
SpaceX also told the FCC officials that it has "deployed over 700 satellites to date, now by far the largest satellite constellation in the world." The company also shared that it "begun beta service for users across multiple U.S states. Providing service to previously unserved students in rural areas. 'We are prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no Internet connectivity at all,'" SpaceX wrote in a FCC presentation image, pictured below.
SpaceX also provided the Commission's representatives with an image showcasing Starlink internet speed; low-latency (Ping rate) below 20 milliseconds (ms), download speed of 103 megabits per second (Mbps) and upload speeds of 42 Mbps.
Source: SpaceX Presentation to FCC
As of today, there are around 768 satellites operating in low Earth orbit. The next pair of missions in the company's launch manifest will deploy 120 internet-beaming satellites next week. The missions are scheduled to take place on October 18th and October 21st [dates are subject to change]. The network's speed will improve as more Starlink satellites are deployed. Company officials previously stated 800 satellites could offer "moderate" broadband coverage.
SpaceX provided the FCC with a graph showing how Starlink's 'Low-Latency' and 'High Throughput' performs, shown below. Stating it conducted "millions of tests on actual consumer-grade equipment in congested cells, showing consistent observed median latency of approximately 30 ms," and that the testing was "performed using peak busy hour conditions, heavily loaded cells, and representative locations." The company also shared they upgraded the satellites' software to "improve speeds 2.5 times from previous speed tests."
Source: SpaceX Presentation to FCC
During Tuesday's teleconference, SpaceX representatives also urged the FCC to grant it permission to modify the satellites' altitude. The company seeks to "lower remaining satellites to altitudes ranging from 540 km to 570 km." This modification would enable to speed service roll-out to Polar Regions, including Alaska. And also enable SpaceX to deploy less satellites.
"This pace and level of investment demonstrates the urgency to approve SpaceX’s modification so that it may quickly and safely provide improved service to consumers in remote—and Polar-locations," SpaceX representatives told the FCC.
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.