Published: Sun, November 18, 2018
Tech | By Constance Martin

FCC Grants LeoSat US Market Access

FCC Grants LeoSat US Market Access

Having received approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in March to launch more than 4,000 satellites, SpaceX was waiting on the government body to again approve the next batch of satellites that will make up its enormous Starlink fleet of nearly 12,000 spacecraft.

In March, the FCC gave SpaceX permission to launch 4,425 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and on Friday it signed off on another 7,518, Sputnik reported on Saturday.

Satellite communications have been in use for decades but Internet access through the technology is slow and expensive, largely because the satellites responsible for ferrying data to and from the ground orbit are at great distances from the earth, increasing lag.

"I'm excited to see what services these proposed constellations have to offer", said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in an email statement to ZDNet's sister site CNET. The project is expected to have a total cost of $10 billion to develop.

In February, SpaceX launched two small prototype satellite overseas one of its Falcon 9 rockets.

Commissioners Rosenworcel and Michael O'Rielly cautioned that more work remains to be done on orbital debris concerns given the large number of satellites planned to launch within the next decade, but said approving the four constellations was important to do now regardless.

Authorisation comes as SpaceX successfully launched its 18th rocket into space from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, with a Falcon 9 rocket lifting Qatar's Es'hail 2 communications satellite into orbit.

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Elon Musk's SpaceX won permission to deploy more than 7,000 satellites, far more than all operating spacecraft now aloft, from USA regulators who also moved to reduce a growing risk from space debris as skies grow more crowded.

"After review of the record, we conclude that granting of the SpaceX application will serve the public interest", subject to conditions related to power levels, avoidance of interference with other systems, and prevention of space debris, the FCC said.

The FCC's approval triggers a regulatory deadline whereby the companies must place at least half their constellations in orbit within six years, and the full systems in nine.

What potential problems do you think Elon Musk's broadband satellites would present to Earth?

When it comes to satellites in geostationary orbits, their end-of-life option is to go farther from Earth to a "graveyard orbit" 200 miles (300 kilometers) further away.

In another note, Space X has already launched two Starlink satellites earlier this year.

As a result of the space junk issue, the FCC asked SpaceX to submit debris mitigation plans. Project developer Paul Thomas told Space.com that if all goes well, the United States could have a 90-satellite constellation in operation at a 620-mile altitude by 2022.

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