Musk gets FCC approval to lower Starlink orbits
April 28, 2021
By Chris Forrester
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted Elon Musk permission to lower the orbital heights of its Starlink broadband satellite system.
“Specifically, we modify the license by reducing the number of satellites from 4,409 to 4,408; modifying the primary operational altitude specified for 2,814 satellites, to change it from the 1,100-1,300 km range to the 540-570 km range,” said an FCC statement.
The FCC ruled that SpaceX must keep the relevant satellites below 580 kms height. This means that potential interference to the planned constellation from Project Kuiper (funded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos).
The FCC denied opposition to the scheme by Viasat, SES, O3B, Kepler, Kuiper Systems and others.
However, some objections have been looked at. Top of the FCC’s focus was the use of allegedly “clandestine” dishes by Starlink. SpaceX is using some redesigned antennas that have moved away from its core phased-array designs and replaced by parabolic dishes for its Ka-band transmissions. “We see no reason to revisit this analysis since the technical specifications have not changed. Therefore, we conclude that the communications with a parabolic, rather than phased array antenna, will not cause any significant interference problems,” ruled the FCC.