WASHINGTON — U.S. telecom regulators approved a request from SpaceX to lower the orbit of nearly 1,600 of its proposed broadband satellites.
The Federal Communications Commission said April 26 it was ok with SpaceX changing its plans to orbit those satellites at 550 kilometers instead of 1,150 kilometers. SpaceX says the adjustment, requested six months ago, will make a safer space environment, since any defunct satellites at the lower altitude would reenter the Earth’s atmosphere in five years even without propulsion. The lower orbit also means more distance between Starlink and competing internet constellations proposed by OneWeb and Telesat.
FCC approval allows satellite companies to provide communications services in the United States. The agency granted SpaceX market access in March 2018 for 4,425 satellites using Ku- and Ka-band spectrum, and authorized 7,518 V-band satellites in November. SpaceX’s modified plans apply to the smaller of the two constellations.
By lowering the orbits of some satellites, SpaceX says it will need 16 fewer spacecraft overall, and that it will be able to achieve signal latencies as low as 15 milliseconds.
OneWeb and Kepler Communications, two companies also developing low Earth orbit constellations, objected to SpaceX’s modification request and asked the ...