SpaceX asks to modify its broadband satellite orbits

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in an application filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is asking if it can dramatically modify its previously approved orbital plans.

Musk wants the SpaceX’s fleet of ‘Starlink’ satellites to triple the number of orbital planes, each at 550 kms high.

In essence, the plan is for 72 orbital rings circling the Earth instead of the approved 24. This will have, says SpaceX, the effect of achieving greater launch efficiency and an improved spread beam coverage.

“The proposed respacing would require fewer launches of satellites – perhaps as few as half – to initiate service to the entire contiguous US. Globally, the modification would enable more rapid coverage of all longitudes to grow toward the Equator, as well as bolstering capacity over in areas of greater population density.”

SpaceX in May orbited one batch of 60 satellites – not all of which are working. Five are being deorbited, and now says that it expects to make “several more” launches this year.

SpaceX has plans for 4 more launch flights this year according to the FCC filing, with the first probably later in October.

If approved, SpaceX will have just 22 satellites in each ring instead of the 66 per orbital ring initially envisioned. The scheme is then to have the system up and working in time for next year’s hurricane season over the US.

The FCC has approved SpaceX’s plans for almost 12,000 satellites, with 1600 of them operating from 550 kms high.  The other plans approved include 7500 satellites to orbit at between 335-346 kms and another 2800 at heights of between 1100 and 1325 kms.


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