FCC allows SpaceX to deploy 7,500 second generation Starlink satellites

SpaceX first asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to deploy 29,988 second-generation Starlink satellites in 2020. Now the FCC has granted their request – at least in part. The Commission has given the company the green light to build, deploy and operate up to 7,500 satellites for its Gen2 constellation at altitudes of 525 km, 530 km and 535 km. In its announcement, the FCC said that approving 7,500 satellites for the constellation will allow SpaceX to bring broadband internet to users worldwide, even those living in far-flung areas.

However, the FCC limits the number of satellites SpaceX can deploy for now to address concerns about space debris and space security. The limited grant will help maintain a safe space environment and protect other satellite and terrestrial operators from harmful interference. Several companies and even NASA previously raised concerns about SpaceX’s plan to deploy an additional 30,000 satellites, given that the FCC had already approved the launch of 12,000 first-generation Starlink satellites.

In NASA’s letter to the commission, she discussed the potential impact of an expanded constellation on her scientific and human spaceflight missions. A large number of Starlink satellites could increase the risk of collision and result in fewer launch windows. However, for now, the FCC is only “deferring action on the remainder of SpaceX’s application,” allowing it to potentially approve further deployments.

SpaceX chief Elon Musk previously announced that the second-generation Starlink satellites will be much larger than their predecessors and will need to be launched on the company’s Starship launch vehicle. One of the reasons they are larger is their massive antennae, which will be able to communicate with phones here on Earth, like cell towers in the sky. In fact, the collaboration between T-Mobile and SpaceX, announced in August, will depend on Starlink’s second-generation satellites. With their partnership, the companies aim to end cellular dead zones and provide connectivity anywhere there’s a clear view of the sky, even if it’s in the middle of the ocean.

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