FCC gives permission to SpaceX to launch up to 7,500 Starlink internet satellites

Some conditions have been applied however to control space debris and safety.
Loukia Papadopoulos
60 Starlink satellites stacked together before deployment on 24 May 2019.jpg
60 Starlink satellites stacked together before deployment in 2019

SpaceX/Wikipedia 

The Federal Communications Commission issued a key authorization to Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday to launch up to 7,500 next-generation satellites in its Starlink internet network.

“Specifically, we grant SpaceX authority to construct, deploy, and operate up to 7,500 satellites operating at altitudes of 525, 530, and 535 km and inclinations of 53, 43, and 33 degrees, respectively, using frequencies in the Ku- and Ka-band. We defer consideration of SpaceX’s proposed use of E-band frequencies and tracking beacons,” said the order.

A request refused and some conditions placed

The FCC refused SpaceX’s full application, which included deployment of nearly 30,000 satellites in low Earth orbit, deferring that decision to a later date. It also placed some conditions on the company’s plan to deploy the satellites.

“Interested parties raised a number of significant issues in the record regarding this application, and we have carefully considered these issues in arriving at our decision today,” further noted the order.

“These issues include, but are not limited to, orbital debris mitigation and space safety, protection of systems licensed in previous NGSO FSS processing rounds and sharing of information with other operators, compliance with equivalent power-flux density (EPFD) limits and other issues involving protection of geostationary satellite orbit (GSO) space stations from harmful interference, protection of science missions using electromagnetic spectrum, as well as various concerns that parties deem to be environmental, such as potential atmospheric effects from launches and satellite reentries and potential effects on astronomy and night sky observation.”

To ensure all these concerns are met, SpaceX is required to coordinate with other satellite operators, as well as with NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Expanding SpaceX's services

In July of 2022, the FCC granted SpaceX the ability to expand its service to trains, ships, and other vehicles such as RVs which could be what many of the new satellites are for.

At the time, the FCC argued in its letter of authorization for Starlink dated June 30 that approving the new capability was in the public’s best interest. “We agree with SpaceX and Kepler that the public interest would benefit by granting with conditions their applications,” the FCC wrote.

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“Authorizing a new class of terminals for SpaceX’s satellite system will expand the range of broadband capabilities to meet the growing user demands that now require connectivity while on the move, whether driving an RV across the country, moving a freighter from Europe to a U.S. port or while on a domestic or international flight.”

By the end of July, the FCC also granted SpaceX competitor Amazon permission to launch 3,236 internet-carrying satellites as part of Project Kuiper. Once complete, Kuiper will be in direct competition with Starlink. 

Who will win this space competition? For now, it seems both companies are doing well launching more satellites than ever before.