SpaceX requests FCC approval on new Starlink orbits
August 20, 2021
SpaceX has submitted orbital modifications to its ‘next generation’ Starlink satellites to the FCC. If approved, the new Generation 2 Starlink craft will be able to offer higher-density services to rural areas.
SpaceX has proposed two variants to the FCC and will await the Commission’s verdict/approval before proceeding with a modification to its existing satellite operational use.
The Elon Musk-backed company, in an August 18th filing to the FCC, state that it does not need extra frequency rights, but that the proposals come from its own work and observations, and the potential use of SpaceX’s giant Starship. Starship could launch more satellites in one mission than the existing Falcon 9 rocket.
The FCC application states: “While the original constellation provides unprecedented capacity for a satellite system, the demand for more broadband continues to grow unabated and the need for user connectivity has never been more important.”
The application adds: “SpaceX has found ways to leverage the advanced capabilities of its new launch vehicle, Starship, that has increased capability to deliver more mass to orbit quickly and efficiently and, combined with reuse capability of the upper stage, launch more often. With this increased potential, Starship allows SpaceX to better position satellites to meet changing consumer demand.”
The differences are potentially significant.
Configuration 1 (and SpaceX’s preferred option) sees a total of 29,988 satellites being deployed in inclined orbit at altitudes of between 340 – 614 kms and operating in nine different altitudes.
Configuration 2 would stay with the current Falcon 9 rocket and uses almost the exact same number of satellites (29,996) but operating at 12 different altitudes and 12 different orbital inclinations.
The current FCC permissions allow for some 30,000 satellites. The new satellite versions would, says SpaceX, be slightly heavier and have more power as well as using inter-satellite optical/laser links. The new craft would also have improved (reduced) reflectivity and thus make Earth-bound astronomers a little happier.