The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved a request from SpaceX to fly more than 1,500 of its Starlink communication satellites at a lower altitude of 550 kilometres instead of 1,150 kilometres.
The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation is part of the California-based tech company’s bid to provide reliable and affordable broadband to every corner of the Earth. The network will consist of more than 11,000 satellites, 1 million user terminals, and six gateways, which will provide the necessary communication links back from the satellites.
SpaceX applied for the revised orbit for a portion of the satellites six months ago. The request was made in an effort to foster a more responsible use of space, with defunct satellites at the lower altitude reentering the Earth’s atmosphere within 5 years even if they no longer had propulsion. The revised orbit also puts more space between the Starlink constellation and the competing OneWeb and Telesat constellations.
Following the announcement of the approval, SpaceX released the following statement from COO Gwynne Shotwell.
“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service,” said Shotwell.
Shotwell went on to confirm that the first batch of Starlink satellites had arrived at the launch site for processing. The launch provider has previously stated that the launch of this first batch of satellites has been scheduled for no earlier than May.