FCC Approves SpaceX Broadband Satellites

Back in February, SpaceX applied for approval to launch low-earth orbit satellites that would be able to provide broadband. Today, the FCC has granted that request and the company along with Telesat, LeoSat, and Kepler Communications will launch more than 7,000 new satellites for broadband service.

The Commission also granted SpaceX’s request to add the 37.5-42.0 GHz, and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized NGSO constellation. SpaceX says that its goal with this constellation of satellites is to provide constant global internet service. The project is expected to cost more than $10 billion to develop and with this approval, could be operational as soon as 2020. In order for the plan to work, SpaceX will have to launch satellites in phases and meet certain service delivery milestones.

SpaceX has filed to lower the initial deployment milestone to 16 satellites with the goal of meeting the FCC’s service requirements on time.

Satellites launched by the other providers will offer additional services. Kepler’s satellites which are licensed in Canada will provide global connectivity for the internet of things and other connected commercial devices.

LeoSat’s satellites will provide connectivity to enterprises and underserved communities. LeoSat’s proposed NGSO system consists of 78 satellites, which will operate under the ITU filings of France and a planned authorization from the Netherlands.

Alongside these approvals, The Verge notes that the FCC will also be working on additional guidelines for dealing with space debris in order to avoid collisions among satellites and with other spacecraft. Satellites will have to be taken out of orbit on a pretty short time frame – NASA estimates that if the constellation of satellites isn’t effectively pruned, the risk of space collision increases significantly. Satellites would need to be removed from orbit within five years of launch.