FCC approves 7859 new satellites

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a cluster of planned satellite constellations. The total of satellites which received the FCC stamp of approval is a staggering 7859.

It is quite possible that not all will take flight, but the FCC has simply said the market must decide on success or failure. The FCC levied tough controls on SpaceX setting tight time limits on its launch and deployment plans. The FCC says that SpaceX must launch at least 50 per cent of its first batch of 7518 satellites within six years, and all within nine years.

Top of the list in terms of sheer volume is SpaceX which had already received authorisation to build and launch a breathtaking 4425 satellites, and if it wishes, to follow this initial cluster with an additional 7518 craft. In total, SpaceX now has permission to fly 11,943 satellites.

This mega-constellation comes under SpaceX’s ‘Starlink’ broadband programme to serve rural and isolated communities with broadband and internet. SpaceX has said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access worldwide.

In brief, SpaceX “proposes to add a very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) NGSO [non-geostationary satellite orbit] constellation, consisting of 7,518 satellites operating at altitudes from 335km to 346km,” the FCC said in the draft of the order that it approved unanimously on November 15th.

The new satellites would use frequencies between 37.5 and 42GHz for space-to-Earth transmissions and frequencies between 47.2 and 51.4GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions, the FCC announced.

Other approvals came from the FCC for LeoSat (Netherlands based, 78 initially), Kepler Communications (Canada, 140), Telesat of Canada (117). Each of these three will be gaining their formal licensing approvals from their host countries, but the FCC has approved their operations over the US.

“From providing high-speed broadband services in remote areas to offering global connectivity to the Internet of Things through ‘routers in space’ for data backhaul, I’m excited to see what services these proposed constellations have to offer,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said. “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.”


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