The US regulator FCC has approved Elon Musk‘s space company SpaceX to orbit more than 2,800 Starlink satellites lower than previously planned.
SpaceX’s satellites are now allowed to fly at altitudes of 540 to 570 kilometers. At that height, SpaceX already has permission to operate 1,584 spacecraft. With the change, all 4,408 satellites at that altitude would be put into orbit.
Lower orbit allows for faster internet service because the signal doesn’t have to travel that far. The change would allow SpaceX to better provide broadband in rural areas. SpaceX already offers satellite internet to several countries with its Starlink service , which will also be available in the Netherlands later this year.
Amazon complained about collision risk
Competitors Amazon and OneWeb , which also work on satellite networks , previously objected to SpaceX’s plans. They warned that the signals from satellites could get in each other’s way and that there would be a greater risk of collision between satellites.
The FCC sees no problems if the Starlink satellites are lowered, but SpaceX does impose all kinds of conditions. Amazon tells The Verge that it is satisfied with that. “These conditions remove our biggest concerns about space safety.”
The zone of SpaceX’s satellites is just below the zone assigned to Project Kuiper ‘s fleet , Amazon’s satellite project.
Battle between SpaceX and Amazon
The battle over the plan reflects the race that is going on between companies competing with each other to provide broadband services from space. Amazon received approval from the FCC for 3,236 of its Kuiper satellites in 2020, but has not launched any so far. Companies like Viasat Telesat Canada and OneWeb also have plans.
SpaceX is ahead of its competitors. The company said it had 1,320 satellites in orbit on April 6. The next day, another sixty were launched.
Also to the Netherlands
The Dutch have recently been able to register on the Starlink site for a subscription to the satellite internet. Users pay for the necessary equipment themselves, such as a satellite dish. That costs 499 euros, on top of Starlink’s monthly 99 euros service costs.