SpaceX Wins FCC Approval to Deploy 7,518 Satellites for Broadband Communications

Yolanda Curtis
November 18, 2018

Elon Musk's SpaceX has received approvals from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put a constellation of almost 12,000 satellites into orbit that would foster cheap wireless Internet access by the 2020s.

SpaceX initially requested the FCC to grant the six-year milestone only to an initial launch of 1,600 for the batch of 7,518 broadband satellites.

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. Our approach to these applications reflects this Commission's fundamental approach: "encourage the private sector to invest and innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers", he advised. SpaceX has also said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access. The project is expected to have a total cost of $10 billion to develop. It is worth noting that these two satellites are for test purposes which demonstrate Starlink on a small scale.


"It´s literally throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars", Al Tadros, vice president of space infrastructure and civil Space at a company called SSL, said this month at a meeting in the United States capital of key players in the emerging field of on-orbit servicing, or repairing satellites while they are in space.

On the same day the FCC approved an item contemplating what to do with an enormous amount of space debris, it approved the requests of four companies that want to roll out new and expanded nongeostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites.

The first Satellite Sputnik was launched in 1957.


The 7,518 additional satellites would be operating at very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) to boost capacity and reduce latency in overly populated regions. Musk has said: "It would be like rebuilding the Internet in space". The company is building its satellites in-house. On top of this, all the satellites should hit the orbit within nine years. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai explained in his statement that the applications and their constellations offer the promise of introducing "variety in the burgeoning field of non-geostationary satellite services and innovative solutions to bridging the digital divide".

"While there are still issues to be explored, including communications with [Earth stations in motion] and orbital debris, and policy calls that we may not have gotten quite right, such as how we handle in-line interference, the commission continues to take necessary steps to allow investment and future deployment of these ambitious projects", O'Rielly said. Development of the Starlink satellites began in 2015. The first Starlink satellites should become operational by either 2019 or 2020.


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