Elon Musk’s SpaceX has received the green light to put over 7,000 new satellites in orbit. In a press release dated November 15th, the FCC announced that SpaceX will, as part of a four-company collective, deploy and operate the satellites in a non-geostationary, very-low Earth orbit. The other 3 companies involved are Kepler Communications, Inc., Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA, Inc. The total number of devices deployed will be nearly 12,000.
The program, called Starlink, will operate the network of satellites at an altitude of just over 200 miles. Their job will be to bring cost-effective internet access to remote and rural areas around the globe. Having a large number of smaller satellites operating at a low altitude will reduce lag and minimize the equipment costs associated with connecting to satellites operating at a higher altitude. The FCC’s announcement included, “The Commission’s action provides SpaceX with additional flexibility to provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the United States and globally.”
The FCC also granted permission for the Starlink program to use the 37.5-42.0 GHz and 47.2- 50.2 GHz frequency bands which will contribute to higher data rates and lower latency.
While this is good news for both SpaceX and the internet in general, there are some possible speed bumps ahead, not the least of which ironically comes from the FCC. A recent proposal made by the FCC aims to impose regulations on the satellite industry to reduce “space junk”. The proposal seeks to regulate how companies dispose of outdated satellites in orbit which could be a problem as the new, smaller devices used in the Starlink project have a shorter lifespan compared to larger satellites.
Image courtesy of SpaceX