SpaceX is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission for changes in the spacing of its Starlink broadband satellites, in order to extend internet services to a wider swath of the United States on a faster timetable.
“This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and U.S. territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other U.S. territories by the following hurricane season,” SpaceX said in an application filed on Aug. 30 and accepted last week.
If SpaceX follows that schedule, Starlink coverage could be available throughout the 48 contiguous U.S. states by November 2020, when next year’s hurricane season ends.
The implication is that the adjustment would serve the public interest because territories in the potential path of a hurricane, such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, could have Starlink’s satellite broadband service available to them sooner than previously planned.
SpaceX emphasized that the shift in spacing wouldn’t require a change in the satellites’ authorized altitude or inclination, their operational characteristics or the effect on orbital debris. Instead, the 1,584 satellites covered in the application at issue would be shifted around in their orbits, tripling the number of orbital planes (to 72) but cutting the number of satellites in each plane by two-thirds (to 22).
As mentioned above, SpaceX applied for four FCC STA licenses – effectively communications-related launch permits – on August 30th, all for Starlink missions with nominal No Earlier Than (NET) launch dates in 2019. It must be noted that it’s exceptionally rare for the starting dates of STAs to actually correlate with launch dates, but a best-case scenario typically sees a given launch occur within a handful of weeks of that date. STAs last six months, providing plenty of buffer for all but the most extreme launch delays.
Mission Date (NET)
Starlink-1 October 10th
Starlink-2 October 25th
Starlink-3 November 13th
Starlink-4 December 8th
Of note, NASASpaceflight.com recently published Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Kennedy Space Center (KSC) planning dates for SpaceX’s next two Starlink missions, confirming that the company is planning for launches roughly one week after the dates on its newly-requested FCC STAs. Those official planning dates show two back-to-back Starlink launches no earlier than (NET) October 17th and November 4th.
SERVING CUSTOMERS SOONER
According to SpaceX’s Starlink.com website, Starlink will be able to start serving customers at Northern US and southern Canadian latitudes after just six launches (360 satellites), with limited “global coverage of the populated world” available after 24 launches (1440 satellites). However, per an FCC license modification request published on August 30th, the same day as 8 launch STAs, the company believes it can dramatically expedite Starlink coverage (regardless of launch rate) with one relatively simple modification.
SpaceX Refused To Move A Starlink Satellite At Risk Of Collision With A European Satellite
The European Space Agency (ESA) says one of its satellites was forced to avoid a satellite from SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, raising concerns about the impact of Starlink on low Earth orbit operations, after SpaceX refused to move their satellite out of the way.
At 11.02 A.M. today, Monday, September 2, ESA’s Aeolus Earth observation satellite had to use its thrusters to move itself out of a potential collision with a Starlink space internet satellite dubbed “Starlink 44”. The incident took place 320 kilometers above Earth as the two orbital paths of the two vehicles intercepted each other. Aeolus returned to its operational orbit after the maneuver.
According to Holger Krag, head of the Space Debris Office at ESA, the risk of collision between the two satellites was 1 in 1,000 – ten times higher than the threshold that requires a collision avoidance maneuver. However, despite Aeolus occupying this region of space nine months before Starlink 44, SpaceX declined to move their satellite after the two were alerted to the impact risk by the U.S. military, who monitor space traffic.
Recommended viewing: Starlink will provide high-quality broadband internet to the most isolated part of the planet. Four billion more online shoppers. schools were there are no schools. Healthcare where there is no health care. Let’s hope that Elon can make it work.
SpaceX Internet rival and the Canadian telecom, Telesat, needs to link remote areas with its low-earth-orbit satellites. Now, it seems to have the support of Her Majesty’s management. The firm declared this week that it is joining hands with the Government of Canada to extend high-speed Internet all over rural regions. Over the coming decade, the government will donate $600 Million in Canadian currency towards the upcoming series of satellites by the telecom. An extra $85 Million of financial support will be employed to generate 500 new jobs, to promote STEM education, and to invest in R&D.