SpaceX seeks ITU spectrum for 30,000 more satellites

SpaceX seeks ITU spectrum for 30,000 more satellites

23 October 2019 | Natalie Bannerman

Cover

The Federal Communcations Commission (FCC) on behalf of SpaceX has submitted documents to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for spectrum for an additional 30,000.

According to sources, the news was confirmed by an ITU official to SpaceNews earlier this month, filing to the ITU 30,000 additional Starlink satellites on top of the 12,000 already approved by the FCC.

The documents are said to contain details of the satellite frequency usage, proposed orbital altitudes, as well as the total number of satellites it is requesting. So far SpaceX has stated that the new infrastructure would operate in low Earth orbit at altitudes ranging from 328km to 580km.

Additionally, the company said the satellites will have steerable spot beams to link with customers, and “omnidirectional” beams for spacecraft telemetry, tracking and control functions. 

Though no timeframes have been given, the ITU filings have been described as an early step in the deployment of the system, and are typically made years before launch.

If all goes ahead SpaceX will be required to share more details about its constellation when applying with the FCC to offer broadband services in the US, as it did with its 60 Starlink satellite launch back in May of this year

Filings trigger a seven-year deadline whereby the satellite operator, in this case SpaceX, must launch at least one satellite with its requested frequencies and operate it for 90 days. Once spectrum rights have been assigned through this “bring into use” procedure, other ventures must design their systems to avoid interference with the newly minted incumbent operator. 

In a statement to SpaceNews a SpaceX spokeperson said, “SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs.”

Back in August, SpaceX further expanded its offerings with the launch of a smallsat programme. In the past small satellite companies have hitched rides with operators of larger satellites as a way of cutting costs. Now, says SpaceX, “these missions will not be dependent on a primary. These missions will be pre-scheduled and will not be held up by delays with co-passengers”