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FCC allows SpaceX to fly internet satellites in lower orbit

2019-04-29 18:06 by
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The FCC has approved SpaceX's request to fly more than 1,500 of its Starlink satellites at an altitude of approximately 342 miles (550 kilometers) — an orbit lower than the one it originally applied for.

In November, SpaceX sent a request to the FCC to partially revise plans for the company's satellite internet constellation, known as Starlink. Under SpaceX's original agreement with the commission, the company had permission to launch 4,425 satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers up. But then SpaceX decided it wanted to fly 1,584 of those satellites in different orbits, thanks to what it had learned from its first two test satellites, TinTin A and B. Instead of flying them at 1,150 kilometers, the company now wants to fly them much lower at 550 kilometers.

"Given the atmospheric drag at this lower altitude, this relocation will significantly enhance space safety by ensuring that any orbital debris will quickly re-enter and demise in the atmosphere," SpaceX told the FCC in November 2018 in its application for a license modification.

The FCC also authorized SpaceX to slightly reduce the number of satellites in the constellation, and to include the use of Ku-band gateway earth stations for fewer than 75 of these lower-altitude satellites. According to SpaceX, the lower orbit would help reduce latency so less satellites would be needed.

SpaceX's upcoming satellite internet network Starlink will pair thousands of internet-beaming satellites with one million ground stations to provide internet access to the entire globe. Half the satellites required will be launched by 2024, leading to a limited commercial rollout in three to five years.

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