SpaceX Starlink Constellation Could Swell by 30,000 More Satellites

SpaceX is seeking permission from the International
Telecommunication Union (ITU) to access spectrum for 30,000 satellites for its Starlink network. That number is in addition to the 12,000 satellites
already approved by the ITU and FCC. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
submitted documents to the ITU on Oct. 7 outlining SpaceX’s ambition to operate the 30,000
additional Starlink satellites. SpaceX’s latest plans to expand the Starlink
network would involve placing 30,000 satellites in multiple orbital planes at altitudes ranging
from 203 to 360 miles (328 to 580 kilometers). The FCC, on SpaceX’s behalf, submitted 20
filings to the ITU as “coordination requests,” each covering SpaceX’s plans for 1,500 satellites
in various low Earth orbits, an ITU official confirmed Oct. 15
The ITU, a United Nations entity, coordinates spectrum at the international level for satellite
operators to prevent signal interference and spectrum hogging. National regulators submit filing on behalf
of their country’s satellite operators. In short- the agency of the United Nations
responsible for allocating international radio spectrum rights and ensuring no interference
between space-based radio transmitters. Why so many satellites? SpaceX says that it’s about ensuring its
network can meet anticipated demand “responsibly.” In this video Engineering Today will discuss
SpaceX’sStarlink Constellation which Could Swell by 30,000 More Satellites. Why SpaceX files paperwork to launch more
Starlink global internet satellites? Let’s get into details. SpaceX launched the first 60 satellites for
the Starlink network aboard a Falcon 9 rocket in May and is set to launch another 60 satellites
into orbit from Cape Canaveral later this month and next month, followed by as many
as 24 Starlink launches next year. In a statement, SpaceX did not confirm the
number of satellites reflected in the FCC’s submissions to the ITU, but the company highlighted
increasing demand for low-latency broadband services. “As demand escalates for fast, reliable
internet around the world, especially for those where connectivity is nonexistent, too
expensive or unreliable, SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total
network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs.” a SpaceX spokesperson said in a statement. “In general there is an advantage to having
more satellites if you’re trying to provide high-bandwidth services with lots of coverage,”
says Brian Weeden, the director of program planning at the Secure World Foundation. Just as more mobile-phone towers can provide
more coverage to customers, more satellites could connect more users to the internet. “That said,” Weeden adds, “that number
sounds really high, and it’s hard to tell whether it’s justified without seeing more
details.” ITU filings are an early step in deploying
a satellite system, and are often made years before a company plans to build launch spacecraft. SpaceX will be required to disclose more details
about its constellation when applying with the FCC for access to the U.S. market to offer
broadband services, like it did with the 12,000-satellite constellation it began launching in May. Officials said SpaceX is laying the groundwork
to grow the planned total network capacity and density of the Starlink constellation
up to 10 times that of earlier plans. SpaceX officials have previously stated the
Starlink constellation will grow commensurate with market demand. SpaceX said the satellites will have steerable
spot beams to link with customers, and “omnidirectional” beams for spacecraft telemetry, tracking and
control functions. SpaceX’s ITU filings contain details about
frequency usage, proposed orbital altitudes, and the number of satellites it desires. The filings do not say when SpaceX hopes to
launch the satellites, or other details such as spacecraft throughput and deorbit timelines. According to ITU rules, after a company makes
a filing requesting spectrum, it has seven years to launch a satellite with the requested
frequencies and must operate it for at least 90 days. At that point, the operator can receive priority
rights to the requested spectrum over potential competitors. Failure to accomplish these steps opens the
spectrum rights up again. Securing that much spectrum could involve
a protracted legal battle, depending on whether frequencies have already been allocated for
any space or terrestrial services. SpaceX may also be trying to get ahead of
the competition and drown the ITU in more paperwork—especially since the ITU is expected
to add more stringent spectrum reservation rules during a conference in a few weeks. The ITU is expected to change its “bring
into use” rules during the upcoming World Radio communication Conference, which takes
place from Oct. 28 to Nov. 22 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. If SpaceX intends to move ahead with the 30,000
additional satellites, the company will have to file requests for permission from the Federal
Communications Commission, the government agency charged with issuing licenses to U.S.-based
commercial satellite operators. The FCC has already authorized the launch
of 12,000 Starlink satellites, but SpaceX continues to adjust how it plans to deploy
the spacecraft. The initial set of Starlink satellites will
fly in 341-mile-high (550-kilometer) orbits inclined 53 degrees to the equator. In August, SpaceX requested approval from
the Federal Communications Commission to fly up to 1,584 Starlink satellites in 72 different
orbital pathways. The FCC has not yet ruled on that request
though. Starlink will originally set out to provide
service in the northern U.S., as well as parts of Canada, beginning as early as next year
when the network goes live. The plan is to then scale the network to global
coverage over the course of around 24 launches of Starlink satellites. SpaceX’s strategy has been lauded for its
ambition, but it has also caused concerns. The company lost three satellites of the original
batch that were launched—a 5% failure rate that could extend to the rest of its constellation. SpaceX said it was purposely deorbiting two
more Starlink satellites to demonstrate their capability bring spacecraft back into the
atmosphere for destructive re-entries at the end of their missions. Space debris experts and astronomers have
raised concerns about threats posed by SpaceX’sStarlink fleet, and other satellite constellations
planned by Amazon and OneWeb. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in May
that the first batch of 60 Starlink satellites were experimental, but could become part of
the operational Starlink fleet after completing in-orbit tests. Each of the 60 satellites launched in May
weighed around 500 pounds, or 227 kilograms, at the time of launch. A recent near-miss between a Starlink satellite
and an ESA weather satellite raised the specter of a collision that could make Earth’s orbit
far more hazardous to spacecraft—or even unusable. The European Space Agency said it maneuvered
its Aeolus Earth observation satellite out of the way of one of the two Starlink satellites
SpaceX was intentionally deorbiting in early September. Initial tracking data from the U.S. military
suggested the descending Starlink satellite and the Aeolus spacecraft had about a 1-in-50,000
chance of hitting in orbit, which did not meet the standard industry threshold of a
1-in-10,000 chance of a collision before conducting an avoidance maneuver. ESA and SpaceX agreed not to conduct an avoidance
maneuver based on the initial probability of an impact. But further tracking data upped the chances
of a collision, and ESA controllers’ email messages to SpaceX went unanswered. SpaceX said its team did not see the emails
due to a computer bug in the company’s on-call paging system. ESA finally decided on its own to fire thrusters
on the Aeolus satellite to slightly adjust its course and eliminate any chance of a collision. SpaceX says the Starlink satellites are equipped
with automated collision avoidance systems. Using orbital tracking data uploaded from
the ground, the satellites’ on-board software decides when to conduct a maneuver to avert
a possible collision with another object in space. According to ESA, there are currently around
2,000 operating satellites orbiting the Earth, and around 22,000 objects the size of a softball
or larger are regularly tracked and listed in the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance
Network catalog. The launch of up to 42,000 Starlink satellites
would nearly triple the catalog of space objects. SpaceX said it also will take measures in
response to astronomers’ worries about the possibility that streaks of light from passing
Starlink satellites could spoil images from ground-based observatories. Some scientists raised concerns after the
first batch of 60 Starlink satellites were more reflective than expected, especially
in the first few days after their launch, when they were flying at lower altitudes and
clumped together in relatively close proximity. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO),
funded by the National Science Foundation, said in May it was working with SpaceX to
“jointly analyze and minimize any potential impacts” on astronomical observations caused
by radio transmissions coming from the Starlink satellites. The NRAO said it continued to monitor, analyze
and discuss the “evolving parameters” of the Starlink system. The NRAO identified several proposals under
consideration, including exclusion zones and other mitigations around the National Science
Foundation’s current and future radio astronomy facilities. In an effort to mitigate the concerns of optical
astronomers, SpaceX plans to make the base of future Starlink satellites black, a change
that is expected to reduce their brightness at dawn and dusk. SpaceX says it will adjust Starlink orbits
should it be necessary for extremely sensitive space science observations. The ITU filing doesn’t mean SpaceX is launching
30,000 satellites tomorrow. It is not guaranteed that, by submitting numerous
filings, SpaceX will build and launch 30,000 more satellites. Tim Farrar, a telecom analyst critical of
SpaceX, tweeted that he was doubtful the ITU will be able to review such big filings in
a timely manner. He sees the 20 separate filings as a SpaceX
effort to “drown the ITU in studies” while proceeding with its constellation. SpaceXspokeperson declined to respond to Farrar’s
comments. In fact, the company is looking to launch
likely only a few hundred in the coming year. But SpaceX is anticipating big increases in
the demand for low-latency and high-capacity broadband globally, and its initial deployment
plans only cover a fraction of that demand. Plus, given the increased interest in providing
communications from orbit, there’s bound to be a growing rush on spectrum over the
next few years. The United Nations Office for Outer Space
Affairs said in April that approximately 8,500 satellites, probes, landers, crewed spacecraft,
cargo craft and space station flight elements have been launched into Earth orbit or beyond
since 1957, when Sputnik launched. If SpaceX launches 30,000 Starlink satellites
in addition to the 12,000 it already planned, the company will by itself be responsible
for about a fivefold increase in the number of spacecraft launched by humanity.

19 thoughts on “SpaceX Starlink Constellation Could Swell by 30,000 More Satellites

  1. Is this trash -building idiot trying to keep mankind on earth … satellites are an enormous danger for space -flight !

  2. I know this will suck for astronomers in the short term but then they used to have their telescopes is cities. Very clearly Musk is pro space exploration. I would bet, with some crafty negotiations you could get him to promace to built a REALLY nice space telescope or 100, for free in exchange for sky rights over the Earth. Thus in the long run this would be very good for astronomers.

  3. You give few misleading information. One is 5% fail rate of SpaceX satellites when you know this 60 was only prototypes, so they fail rate is not related to final product, they do not have even all needed components. Next this ESA BS, it was only political blow event, normal thing, but some people want to make to look as big deal.

  4. Cons: We'll be trapped on Earth forever, our children will have no idea what a star is, and we'll be subjected to a constant storm of flaming debris.

    Pros: I can cancel my Verizon account.

  5. These satellites will not become space debris. They are intentionally being placed in a low orbit that causes them to fall back into – and burn up in – Earth's atmosphere after about 5 years of service.

  6. Dunno about rest of you but i can't wait to move to starlink internet, gonna give nice big middle finger to Serbian telekom the very second starlink starts operating in my country.

  7. 30000 satellites is crazy there need to be space free in the world… How long will those satellites run before they are no longer of use… World is as good as it is at the moment…

  8. "starlink" is a misnomer, as these satellites are not designed to link us with the stars. They should call it "SkyNet"

  9. For Christ Sake, this is going too far and should be limited. Monopolies are never good. Do we have to wait for a collision when launching to realise this? There must be control of the launch pollution or there will be no-one to receive the benefits. Space cannot be a 'Free for all'. Let's be sensible.

  10. I wish that SpaceX had a Satellite with a Camera that can connect with my tablet's location, and when I walk outside to look up onto the sky, The camera can zoom in and see me waving at it🙋🛰 🙏❤❤❤

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