SpaceX Gets FCC OK to Orbit ‘Starlink’ Super Satellite Constellation

Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Hawthorne, CA, United States (4E) – The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently granted SpaceX a license to operate a super constellation of broadband internet satellites that will eventually number 12,000 — the largest satellite constellation in history under one operator.

The license is the first time the FCC has approved a U.S.-licensed low-Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellite service. SpaceX has named this mammoth constellation “Starlink” and expects more than $30 billion in revenue from 40 million subscribers for this service by 2025.

“With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States,” said the FCC said in a statement. SpaceX is slated to start launching operational satellites for the network starting 2019.

“We appreciate the FCC’s thorough review and approval of SpaceX’s constellation license,” said Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer. “Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, 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.”

FCC said the system proposed by SpaceX will use 4,425 satellites. It granted SpaceX the authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said SpaceX planned to launch a satellite-internet business to help fund hims ambitious goal of building a city on Mars.

SpaceX in 2017 submitted regulatory filings to orbit some 12,000 satellites by the mid-2020s. Development of the Starlink satellites began in 2015, and prototype test-flight satellites were successfully launched last February 22. The first Starlink satellites should become operational by either 2019 or 2020.

Starlink satellites will belong to the smallsat-class, with a mass ranging from 100 kg to 500 kg. They will be placed in LEO orbits some 1,100 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The satellites will employ optical inter-satellite links and phased array beam forming and digital processing technologies in the Ku- and Ka-band, and will utilize frequencies above 10,000 GHz.

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