SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval for Lower Orbit Starlink Satellites to Enhance Internet Service

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Written By Viktor

Product manager by day, Starlink enthusiast by night.

SpaceX has filed a request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow some of its second-generation Starlink satellites to operate at lower Earth orbits.

The goal is to significantly improve service speed and reduce latency for its users. The aerospace company proposes to place these satellites at altitudes between 340 and 360 kilometers, a reduction from the current 525 to 550 kilometers for its Gen1 und Gen2 counterparts.

This move is part of SpaceX’s strategy to enhance the quality of its satellite internet service for a broad user base, including consumers, enterprises, and first responders.

Operating at these reduced altitudes, the company expects to provide higher-quality, lower-latency connections, crucial for applications requiring real-time data transmission such as remote work, distance education, telehealth, and emergency services.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk previously tweeted that the company’s goal is to get Starlink latency down to 20ms.

Additionally, operating satellites at lower altitudes eases the deorbiting process due to increased atmospheric drag.

In its FCC filing, SpaceX highlighted the successful performance of its second-generation satellites, particularly their efficiency during launch and early orbit phases where atmospheric drag is most intense.

The company asserted that lower orbits will not only improve service quality but also reduce the likelihood of space collisions and facilitate easier and safer deorbiting of satellites.

The December 2022 approval by the FCC for 7,500 second-generation satellites to operate at higher altitudes included a provision for some satellites to operate within the 340-360 km range.

Moreover, back in 2018, the company had secured FCC approval to deploy 7,518 satellites at altitudes similar to their current proposal.

The 2018 approval was specifically tied to the use of the V-Band, a segment of the spectrum SpaceX had initially planned to utilize exclusively for those satellites.

However, despite the green light from the FCC, SpaceX did not proceed with the deployment under that particular license, leading to a pivot in their approach.

Unlike the previous license, which was confined to the V-Band, SpaceX’s current revision request does not limit the operation of satellites to specific frequency bands.

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