The satellite internet unit of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Starlink won a partial withdrawal from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), receiving permission to launch ten satellites into polar orbit next month. SpaceX asked the FCC in November last year to allow it to focus on the upcoming launch date in December, and the grant is at the heart of the company’s controversial request to change significant parameters of the satellite constellation.
FCC regulates the broadcast of Polar Starlink satellites on SpaceX serves the public interest as the company promises to bring Internet connectivity to remote areas
In an order issued yesterday, the International Bureau of the FCC granted SpaceX the right to launch ten of the 348 satellites that SpaceX plans to operate at an altitude of 560 kilometers and an inclination of 97.6 °. Orbit parameters are a hotspot in the satellite industry, as other service providers, such as Amazon’s Kuiper and Kepler satellite divisions, have objected to interfering with the companies’ own systems once fully implemented.
The launch, currently scheduled for January 14, will be RideShare’s first mission for 2021, with the company launching satellites from several objects into solar synchronous orbit. The mission will also include eight Kepler satellites, with the company telling the Commission that the fact that the eight Starlink satellites will launch with the same mission as its own spacecraft poses a risk of placing its own satellites near polar orbit.
The FCC rejected this claim, noting that:
Given the limited number of satellites in question here and the propulsion capabilities of Starlink satellites, there are no specific concerns about the forthcoming deployment regarding the risk of a collision between the SpaceX and Kepler satellites.
The Commission also requires SpaceX to ensure that the ten satellites do not cause interference and to accept any interference they may receive. In addition, in the event that stellar connections cause disruption, SpaceX must immediately cease to operate them.
|Altitude in kilometers:||550||1100||1,130 th most common||1,275 th most common||1,325 th most common|
|Slope – (i):||53 °||53.8 °||74 °||81 °||70 °|
|Altitude in kilometers:||550||540||570||560||569|
|Slope – (i):||53 °||53.2 °||70 °||97.6 °||97.6 °|
Commission shares confidence in SpaceX’s ability to actively manage its collision avoidance satellites
In addition to expressing concerns about interference, Viasat, Kepler and others have also expressed concerns about orbital debris that could occur if modified Starlink satellites fail and collide with their spacecraft. These concerns are part of the opposition to the SpaceX modification as a whole, and when allowing SpaceX to launch only ten satellites, the Commission decided that the risk of a collision was low, especially since SpaceX would actively maneuver with its satellites.
The approval came after SpaceX’s core satellite policy, Mr. Garnder Foster, confirmed to the FCC last week that if the authority complied with its company’s request in November, then SpaceX would include the ten satellites in the Transporter-1 mission payload. This confirmation came after the mission was postponed until January from its initial launch date in December.
In support of its demand for the ten satellite payloads, SpaceX received support from an unlikely source in Alaska. This happened when Jacob Calderwood, a music specialist at Ipalook Elementary School in Alaska, wrote a letter to the FCC urging him to expeditiously submit a request for a modification to SpaceX.
The teacher criticized Amazon’s opposition to SpaceX’s Starlink modification
Mr Calderwood cites the deplorable state his students in Alaska face when trying to move to distance learning as a result of the pandemic. According to him, only 3% of his students were able to study remotely after their school shutdown in March last year – a case he blames for the high cost of internet access in the region and uses his own internet bills as evidence of.
More striking is his criticism of Kuiper’s opposition to SpaceX’s Starlink modification, where he accuses the company of delaying Internet coverage, which people in Alaska can access if Starlink is fully stationed there. According to him,
It worries me that companies like Amazon’s Kuiper have, among others, filed requests to dismiss SpaceX’s request. They were late with the game and so far have not fulfilled real promises. With regard to the Internet for the province of Alaska and the forthcoming December launch window, time is of the essence. The sooner companies like SpaceX can start beta testing in Alaska, the better for everyone. During the pandemic, my students needed the same access to the Internet as their neighboring government counterparts.
Amazon’s concerns about the modification request cover several areas, including the tilt angles of the Starlink earth station. Amazon believes that changes in these angles will lead to stellar connections seen in Kuiper’s orbital shells, increase by a staggering 164%, and overall the modification has the potential to increase disturbance events by an equally staggering 250%. .
SpaceX, for its part, has been looking to Alaska since mid-2020, when the company asked the FCC to allow it to test its services in the region. Providing coverage in remote areas is one of the main points for Starlink, which SpaceX constantly emphasizes to the FCC, and will benefit not only the general public but also federal consumers, such as the U.S. military.