The US Federal Communications Commission approved SpaceX’s plans to fly a fleet of Internet broadcast satellites, Starlink, to a lower orbit than originally planned.
According to a report by The edge, SpaceX originally planned to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites at ranges of approximately 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers. This plan obtained FCC approval in early 2018. However, the company later decided, based on the test data, that it would like 1,584 of those satellites to orbit at a much lower altitude of approximately 340 miles (550 kilometers). .
SpaceX reasoned that lower elevation would allow it to reduce latency to 15 milliseconds and reduce the total number of satellites by 16 without reducing coverage. The company also said that the lower altitude would allow any satellite that loses orbit to start burning up quickly rather than clogging Earth’s orbit with space debris, something that worried a recent NASA study.
Satellite internet firm OneWeb and satellite operator Kepler Communications have come out against the plan, claiming that Starlink could cause signal interference at lower elevation and possibly even pose a collision risk. In its approval, the FCC found that “the modification proposed by SpaceX does not present significant interference problems and is in the public interest.”
The FCC added that SpaceX claims “because all of its satellites are powered and maneuverable to avoid collisions, they are considered to pose zero risk to any other satellite in this orbital region”, as well as that the company says “satellites operational at 550 ° C. “. “km of altitude will guarantee a 100% success rate in post-mission disposal within 5 years, even under the worst conditions.”
The agency also concluded that SpaceX’s estimate of collision risks should a satellite’s propulsion systems become inoperable “is within accepted limits … even with worst-case assumptions that go beyond any realistic scenario. “
In a statement, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said The edge“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next generation of satellite constellations and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service.”
While streaming satellites over the web sounds like a great idea, many other companies have run into problems with their own similar projects. Facebook’s Project Athena, after failing to get the drones to work properly, turned into satellites with the goal of launching one in early 2019 that the company has yet to implement. Similarly, Google is working on Project Loon, which aims to stream LTE to remote regions of the world with hot air balloons, but it has encountered numerous accidents and is facing a significant patent lawsuit. Amazon has also announced its own initiative.
SpaceX has already produced a ton of Starlink satellites and is on track to start launching them in May.
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