Space X subsidiary Space Exploration Holdings, has just received approval for Starlink, from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate a constellation of 4425 satellites to provide “Internet from Space”.
Yes, thats not a typo.
Satellites have been providing internet or ‘bandwidth’ from space for many years now, but those satellites have all operated at around 22,000 miles above the Earths surface, which is different to how SpaceX wants to do it.
In a statement by the FCC, on Friday, the regulator said that “this is a first of its kind, a constellation of Satellites powering the Internet using the next generation of low-Earth orbit Satellite technology.”
Starlink, is still subject to receiving authorisation from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), and the FCC approved licence is subject to Starlink receiving that approval. The agency has also mandated that at least half of 4425 satellites must be in orbit and operational within the next six years. In addition, the FCC has requested specific information from SpaceX on how the company will manage end-of-life and deorbit procedures in order to guarantee that the constellation’s 4,000+ satellites do not become space debris which can cause significant risks to humanity.
That being said, the Starlink program would provide much needed bandwidth, especially in rural areas where access to the net is limited or non-existent. It has been estimated that there are currently 14 million Americans living in rural areas, and 1.2 million on tribal lands who have a lack of, or non-existent mobile broadband service.
Back in February, the FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, endorsed the SpaceX initiative, saying: “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fibre-optic cables and cell towers do not reach.”
SpaceX’s solution, is to deploy low-earth orbit satellites, which are less than 1000miles above the surface. This solution however has a problem which limits the satellites to broadcast over large surface area, and this is why he needs a ‘constellation’ of 4425 satellites…
To accessing ‘internet from space’, local operators must build out receiver towers and using those receivers they would then beam those signals to customers on the ground.
Today, Friday (30/3/18),SpaceX launched a rocket (see video below) carrying 10 Iridium Satellites to orbit, as it begins to build out its network and has a target to launch a further 30 missions this year, which would be a record when compared to last years 18 missions. Taking into consideration, the FCCs 50% clause, SpaceX must on average deploy 368 satellites per year, for the next six years.
Falcon 9 is vertical on the SpaceX launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in advance of the Iridium-5 mission. All systems and weather are go for tomorrow's launch at 7:13 a.m. PDT, 14:13 UTC. pic.twitter.com/HOIDbP9Xnj— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 29, 2018
Successful deployment of all 10 @IridiumComm NEXT satellites to low-Earth orbit confirmed.— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2018
In the Guardian newspaper today, Gwynne Shotwell, from SpaceX has said, “This is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected,”