Washington: Elon Musk’s SpaceX has received approvals from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put a constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites into orbit that would foster cheap wireless Internet access by the 2020s.
In March, the FCC gave SpaceX permission to launch 4,425 low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, and on Friday it signed off on another 7,518, Sputnik reported on Saturday.
These 11,943 satellites — between 220 and 1,100 pounds in size — will form the expansive Starlink broadband network, designed to provide worldwide high speed internet access by ensuring that at least one satellite is always above the horizon for anyone on Earth.
“From providing high-speed broadband services in remote areas to offering global connectivity to the Internet of Things through ‘routers in space’ for data backhaul, I’m excited to see what services these proposed constellations have to offer,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was quoted as saying.
“Our approach to these applications reflects this commission’s fundamental approach: encourage the private sector to invest and innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers,” Mr Pai added.
Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious project to provide constant global internet coverage from orbit. The project is expected to cost $10 billion to develop, and SpaceX aims to have the constellation operational by the mid-2020s, the Verge reported.
Currently, SpaceX has only two of those roughly 12,000 satellites in orbit: TinTin A and B — two test satellites it launched in February.
The company has dramatically increased its launch capacity in 2018, with four more scheduled for a total of 22 launches.
It has also expanded its payloads, with a scheduled launch on Monday carrying 71 small probes for various commercial enterprises on a Falcon 9 rocket dubbed the “SmallSat Express”, the Sputnik reported.
Besides SpaceX, the FCC also approved three other companies with much smaller projects: 140 satellites for Kepler, 117 for Telesat and 78 for LeoSat, meaning that the agency voted to permit the placing of 7,859 more human-made objects into orbit.
The FCC is worried, however, what the dramatic expansion of man-made objects in low orbit will mean for the growing problem of space junk, the report said.