SpaceX, TeleSat Canada bids get US nod to expand satellite internet

Gerald Bowen
November 18, 2018

All four companies are looking to develop non-geostationary orbit satellites, also known as low Earth orbit (LEO) or nano satellites.

The FCC said the systems "are expected to enable fixed satellite service in the United States, expanding global connectivity and advancing the goals of increasing high-speed broadband availability and competition in the marketplace".

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted November 15 to approve four proposed satellite constellations, authorizing almost 8,000 small telecom satellites to serve U.S. entities from low Earth orbit.

The new very-low-Earth orbit constellation of satellites will use V-band frequencies while SpaceX will now also have permission to add the 37.5-42.0 GHz, and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized NGSO constellation.

The authorisation allows SpaceX to expand its geographic coverage and gives the aerospace startup the green light to support broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users, globally.

Kepler's request for U.S. market access also comes with certain conditions.

Telesat Canada will use a network of 117 satellites to offer high-speed USA communication services.

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Telesat's system, to consist of 117 satellites, is also licensed by Canada.

The FCC also approved access to the U.S. market for satellites from Kepler, Telesat and LeoSat. LeoSat's NGSO constellation will have 78 satellites and will operate on 17.8-18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.4 GHz, 19.6-20.2 GHz, 27.5-29.1 GHz, and 29.5-30.0 GHz frequency bands. The Commission said it continues to process additional requests. At the end of nine years, the FCC freezes approval at the number of satellites in use.

In April, a prototype satellite dubbed RemoveDEBRIS was launched into orbit by the European Commission and a number of private partners to test a space trash removal effort that involves capturing debris with a harpoon and net, Sputnik reported.

This constellation of 11,943 satellites- weighing between 220 and 1,100 pounds- will form the expansive Starlink broadband network. The new license would eliminate redundancies in the separate licensing processes for satellites and earth stations and streamline the applications process, the FCC said.

The agency on a 4-0 vote advanced rules to require more calculations to demonstrate a planned spacecraft poses a minimal risk of collisions, and to minimize new orbiting debris - for instance, from devices that remain aloft after releasing a satellite.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the constellations that advanced today are evidence of a major shift in space activities, since the number of approved satellites almost equals the 8,126 objects that have been launched into space since Sputnik in 1957.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said at the meeting that the new satellites are "smaller and less expensive to launch than the traditional geostationary satellites that have been going up since the 1960s".

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