The United States Federal Communications Commission has approved Elon Musk’s SpaceX plan to provide broadband services using satellites.
The scheme will be the first time a U.S. licensed satellite constellation will provide broadband services through low-Earth orbit satellites.
SpaceX will launch constellation – dubbed “Starlink” – in 2019. The system will come online once 800 satellites are deployed. Eventually, Space aims to have the cluster grow to 4,425 total satellites
What is Starlink
Starlink will be a low-cost, high-performance satellite constellation. Customers will use ground transceivers to access the new space-based Internet communication system.
To create the system SpaceX has developed a satellite bus. (In satellite tech, a bus (seen above) refers to the common model on which production satellite spacecraft are based). SpaceX is also intending to customise it new bus for clients to use for scientific or exploratory missions.
The first clue to the scale of SpaceX’s ambitions came last March when it filed the first set of regulatory paperwork. In total it has applied for two constellations of satellites totalling 7,518 craft.
It will be using the very-low Earth orbit V band for the network; these orbits are rarely used meaning it is comparatively empty compared to the normal low Earth satellites use.
SpaceX wants to use the network to provide internet connectivity to underserved areas of the planet. However, unlike other schemes that focus on developing countries the company is also taking aim at the US market. Hoping to provide a competitively-priced service to urban areas.
Like all SpaceX ventures; the goal is to use the positive cash flow from selling its new service to fund its long-term plans to reach Mars.
Space has already launched two test satellites in February this year.
The identical satellites were initially called MicroSat-1a and MicroSat-1b but were renamed Tintin A and Tintin B upon deployment.
They are now in a circular low Earth orbit at 625 kilometres; and will stay there for the year. Each will communicate with testing stations in California and Washington for ten minutes a day until the end of their missions.
The new approval documents give the company six years to deploy the first 800 satellites, and SpaceX is intending to start launching the system early next year.