Space Internet: FCC Approves SpaceX's Starlink Satellite Network

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn delivering a keynote address at the CCA's Mobile Carriers Show in Las Vegas

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn delivering a keynote address at the CCA's Mobile Carriers Show in Las Vegas

Falcon 9 launched in late February carried the first demonstration satellites for SpaceX's satellite internet constellation (Starlink).

The network is called the Starlink satellite network and the agency has given the Elon Musk-led company USA approval to launch 4,425 low-Earth orbit satellites, which the company hopes will offer broadband with high speeds and low latency around the world.

"This is the first approval of a USA -licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies", the FCC said in a press release.

Current broadband satellites sit tens of thousands of kilometers above the surface; Starlink would place their 4,425 satellites at only 700 miles (1,150 kilometers), then launch another 7500 satellites at only 200 miles (320 kilometers), according to SpaceX's FCC filing. SpaceX's planned 12,000 satellites would nearly double the number that are up there today, and there are other satellite companies seeking approvals to put more satellites in orbit as well.

The Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization yesterday outlines the conditions under which SpaceX is authorized to provide service using its proposed NGSO FSS satellite constellation.

Do you believe that Elon Musk's satellite broadband services will be able to deliver what it promises? But to pay for all of these rocket launches, SpaceX will need to make a lot of money on its network; so no doubt he'll also want plenty of first-world consumers to buy into his product as well.

The plan, named "Starlink" by SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, was heavily criticized by a number of satellite companies, including OneWeb, Telesat, and ViaSat, for a variety of reasons.

SpaceX's constellation is the largest of all the applicants, and generated considerable concern regarding the risk it could enshroud the Earth in a cloud of space debris.

"We appreciate the FCC's thorough review and approval of SpaceX's constellation license", Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX, said in a statement. OneWeb received FCC permission a year ago to launch 720 satellites using Amazon's Blue Origin rockets, and an Apple-Boeing partnership could yield up to 3,000 satellites. The FCC said no, but gave SpaceX permission to re-submit a waiver request in the future. The FCC in September relaxed its deadline, giving operators nine years to launch their full constellation, but even those rules are stricter than what SpaceX would refer.

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