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SpaceX confirms 1600 satellite broadband scheme

Elon Musk has made no secret of his plans to launch a massive 1600 constellation of satellites to girdle the Earth and provide low-cost high-speed broadband to everyone.

This week, Musk’s SpaceX rocket launch company made a formal application to the USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to proceed.  “The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide,” said Musk’s documents, which explained that an initial 800 would expand and improve coverage over the US.

“With deployment of the first 800 satellites, SpaceX will be able to provide widespread US and international coverage for broadband services. Once fully optimised through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1 Gbps per user), low latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally,” the company added.

The fleet of satellites in the proposed constellation will weigh roughly 850 lbs (386 kgs) each and would orbit the Earth in a range of altitudes, starting from about 715 miles and going up to 820 miles (1150-1325 kms). That is much smaller, lighter and lower than the big Geostationary communication satellites currently in operation. SpaceX will use both its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets for the launches, and the satellites will last between 5 and 7 years, following which they will decay within a year.

The satellites would use both Ku and Ka-band.

Financial backers to SpaceX include Google and Fidelity Investments.

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