SpaceX Low Latency Starlink Swarm

SpaceX received FCC approval to deploy 7,518 broadband satellites, in addition to the 4,425 satellites that were approved eight months ago. That amounts to 11,943 satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service.

starlink_graphic

The newly approved satellites would use frequencies between 37.5 and 42GHz for space-to-Earth transmissions and frequencies between 47.2 and 51.4GHz for Earth-to-space transmissions, the FCC said.

SpaceX’s initial 4,425 satellites are expected to orbit at altitudes of 1,110km to 1,325km, a fraction of the altitude of traditional broadband satellites. Because of the low orbits, SpaceX says its broadband network will have latencies as low as 25ms, similar to cable or fiber systems. SpaceX has also said it will provide gigabit speeds and that it will provide broadband access worldwide. No word on data caps or cost of access.  It is high latency, data caps and high cost that makes current satellite broadband so undesirable.

FCC rules require the launch of 50 percent of satellites within six years of authorization and all of them within nine years unless a waiver is granted.

While all this sounds positive for rural families and business seeking broadband access the deployments schedule and orbits will determine the access. Low satellites will pass overhead rapidly only providing a small window of access if another satellite does not pick up the signal and continue the connection. While low latency is good it does not mean much if there is no access window. This is area for more exploration. Stay Tuned.

A portion of this report was adapted from this Arstechnica article.

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