FCC Grants SpaceX Permission to Deploy 11,943 Broadband Satellites

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The satellites are part of Musk's ambitious multibillion-dollar Starlink broadband project.

The Federal Communications Commission voted to let SpaceX launch 4,425 low-Earth orbit satellites. The company said the change in altitude would result in lower latency for the satellites and allow SpaceX to speed up the deployment of its constellation.

The test units were created to gather information about the viability and technology needed to launch a global network of Internet-serving satellites that could blanket the entire globe. The Commission also granted Elon Musk's request to add the 37.5GHz - 42.0GHz and 47.2GHz - 50.2GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized non-geostationary satellite orbit.

The new regulatory approvals set the stage for two companies, SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, and Telesat of Ottawa, Canada, to expand constellations already approved a year ago with more satellites in the rarely used V-band spectrum. The Commission's action will allow Kepler to offer global IoT connectivity, targeting especially sensors and other intelligent devices as well as other fixed satellite services using its proposed constellation in the 10.7-12.7 GHz and 14.0-14.5 GHz frequency bands. SpaceX's constellation got US authorization, while the other three were authorized by governments outside the USA but had sought US market access. The satellites will employ optical inter-satellite links; phased array beamforming and digital processing technologies in the Ku- and Ka-band.

The 7,518 additional satellites would be operating at very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) to boost capacity and reduce latency in overly populated regions.

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The FCC gave SpaceX six years to launch half of the Starlink constellation and nine years to get the whole fleet up, or it'll require a waiver.

"SpaceX can resubmit this request in the future, when it will have more information about the progress of the construction and launching of its satellites and will therefore be in a better position to assess the need and justification for a waiver", the FCC wrote. Within five years of their launch into orbit, NASA estimated that nearly all of the Starlink satellites will need to be taken out of commission or they risk dramatically increasing in-space collisions.

In a statement, FCC chair Ajit Pai said: "I'm excited to see what these services might promise and what these proposed constellations have to offer".

That's why the FCC today it has "initiated a comprehensive review of its orbital-debris mitigation rules". The remaining 7,518 satellites will then cover the orbit below the first constellation. "Accordingly, we condition grant of the application on SpaceX presenting and the Commission granting a modification of this space station grant to include a final orbital debris mitigation plan".

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