Intelsat joins anti-SpaceX satellite move

Intelsat wants US the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to block – at least for the time being – SpaceX’s plan to girdle the Earth with more than 4400 mini-satellites.

Intelsat has said to the FCC that the SpaceX scheme needs more study in order to check that its satellites would not interfere with those already orbiting and using the same frequencies as those proposed by SpaceX.  In detail, Intelsat is arguing that it is far from clear that SpaceX’s plan to lower or switch off its transmissions when there is a risk of interference are adequate.

Intelsat’s letter to the FCC, states: “The [FCC] rules makes clear that experimental licences must operate solely on a secondary basis to licensed services. SpaceX, therefore, has the obligation to operate without causing interference to licensed or authorized services, such as the Ku-band services operated by Intelsat and others. SpaceX boldly claims ‘interference with other systems is very unlikely.’ Yet its confidentiality request masks so much material that it is impossible for any satellite operator to judge whether its operations can be protected, as required by [FCC rules]”.

Intelsat’s letter of objection further demands: “As a minimum, before Intelsat can assess the interference potential of the SpaceX MicroSats, it will need to know several additional, but withheld parameters. For example, it will need to understand the satellites’ beam width, orientation, off-axis gain, number of antennas, beam pointing and switching mechanism, whether the beams remain on even outside the range of the receiving station, and earth station azimuth and elevation angles when communicating with the satellites. Additionally, Intelsat will need to understand the satellite orbital parameters.”

Aerospace giant Boeing, as well as SES/O3b of Luxembourg are also objecting to SpaceX’s overall plan.

SpaceX is seeking approval to launch 1600 satellites within the 6-year FCC mandated time-frame, and is itself seeking permission to extend that 6-year obligation to complete its fleet.

Other would-be satellite operators are also objecting to SpaceX’s plans. For example, OneWeb, which has already started building its initial ‘pilot’ batch of satellites in Toulouse, France, is saying that some of SpaceX’s satellites would be travelling too closely to its own fleet and within 28 kilometers of OneWeb’s orbiters.

Intelsat, which a couple of months ago, had hoped to be merging with OneWeb, still has an investment stake in OneWeb.

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