SpaceX gets approval to blast over 7,000 satellites into space


Based in Washington DC, LeoSat is now working with Thales Alenia Space for the low-earth-orbit constellation of Ka-band communications satellites.

SpaceX has won FCC approval to launch 7,518 Starlink low Earth orbit internet satellites into space. "It is a problem that's getting magnified in low Earth orbit by the proliferation" of small satellites.

Telesat has one of two prototypes in orbit after an Indian PSLV launch in January (the first was destroyed in a November 2017 Soyuz rocket failure), and received FCC approval for a 117-satellite Ka-band constellation past year. 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. These satellites will initially create a blanket of internet coverage for the US, but the program is expected to expand worldwide as SpaceX seeks to broaden the network to 12,000 units.

The Elon Musk-founded company was not the only one approved for launching internet satellites under the ruling, with Telesat, LeoSat and Kepler Communications planning to launch a total of 335 satellites of their own in the coming years. "Our approach to these applications reflects this commission's fundamental approach to encourage the private sector to invest and to innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers", said FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai.

Of the four, SpaceX is by far the largest with 7,518 satellites constituting what it calls a "very low Earth orbit", or VLEO constellation that would operate slightly below 350-kilometers.

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The growing number of plans for low-Earth-orbit satellites also prompted a review of the FCC's rules on cleaning up orbital debris. The remaining satellites should be in orbit within nine years. However, the FCC turned down the request, citing that SpaceX has not provided sufficient grounds for the final implementation milestone requirement to be waived.

The FCC today also voted to of letting satellites in low Earth orbit use certain frequency bands to provide services to ships, airplanes, and vehicles.

That request has not yet been addressed by the FCC and must go through a public comment period. SpaceX has said it plans to launch its first batch of satellites before the end of next year.

LeoSat meant to launch two prototype satellites next year, but scrapped those plans to save costs, choosing instead to do tech validation on the ground with Thales Alenia Space and investor Sky Perfect Jsat of Japan.

The FCC on Thursday sought to weigh in on the issue itself by unveiling a proposal - its first such effort in a decade - that could introduce more rules to the satellite industry created to limit orbital debris.