SpaceX, TeleSat Canada bids get U.S. nod to expand satellite internet

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in October 2018.                  Getty Images

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in October 2018. Getty Images

Furthermore, the also Canada-licensed Telesat system was given a green light for high-speed, low-latency communication services in the United States via its proposed constellation of NGSO satellites.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved SpaceX's request to build, deploy and operate over 7,000 satellites in the very-low-Earth orbit. It would be faster than traditional internet connections, Musk said in the 2015 speech. Several thousand small spacecraft will be at a height 335-346 kilometers, others "lift" to the height 1110-1325 kilometers.

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 a year ago. It was the first time a US-licensed satellite constellation got approved to provide broadband coverage using "a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies", the FCC said.

For the batch of 7,518 satellites, SpaceX asked the FCC to apply the six-year milestone only to an initial deployment of 1,600 satellites.

Capable of beaming 1Gbps broadband speeds down to the surface, the satellites were expected to fly between 1,150km and 1,325km above Earth.

This constellation of 11,943 satellites- weighing between 220 and 1,100 pounds- will form the expansive Starlink broadband network.

Besides SpaceX, the FCC also approved three other companies with much smaller projects. "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".

SpaceX wasn't alone in obtaining permission to launch new satellites.

In 2017, SpaceX submitted regulatory filings to orbit some 12,000 satellites by the mid-2020s.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has two test satellites aloft, and it earlier won permission for a separate set of 4,425 satellites - which like the 7,518 satellites authorized Thursday are created to provide broadband communications. But the FCC denied the request, saying that "SpaceX has not provided sufficient grounds for a waiver of the Commission's final implementation milestone requirement".

"I'm excited to see what these services might promise and what these proposed constellations have to offer".

On Monday, its payloads expanded with the launch of 71 probes for various enterprises on Falcon 9 rocket-"SmallSat Express".

"Certain orbits are getting crowded", Henry Hertzfeld, director of George Washington University's Space Policy Institute, said in an interview. "Accordingly, we condition grant of the application on SpaceX presenting and the Commission granting a modification of this space station grant to include a final orbital debris mitigation plan".

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