Boeing goes slow on LEO, but SpaceX continues
June 29, 2018
By Chris Forrester
Dawn Harms, VP/Global sales at Boeing Satellite, told delegates to the CASBAA Industry Forum in Singapore that its plans to launch a massive satellite constellation had been paused.
Boeing filed an application with the USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to build and launch between 1400-3000 small Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites for broadband connectivity.
Harms sidestepped a delegate’s question on whether Boeing might sell the constellation, which has yet to receive FCC approval, saying only that the aerospace giant remained open to doing what made sense in the future.
Boeing is separately working with satellite operator SES on building a fleet of seven so-called “super-powered” mPOWER Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, the first of which is scheduled to launch in 2021. The mPOWER suite of craft were announced in September 2017.
Boeing’s apparent LEO reluctance was not the case with rocket builder SpaceX, backed by billionaire Elon Musk. SpaceX has its own suite of plans to launch about 4400 satellites, and the first pair of test craft (the wonderfully named Tintin 1 and 2) were launched in February.
Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s VP/Commercial sales, stressed the two satellites were very much test vehicles, designed to better understand the technology and potential. However, Hofeller added that the Musk company would continue with the programme.
The FCC rules requires that at least half of an approved satellite plan be ‘brought into use’ within 6 years of authorisation.