FCC Grants SpaceX Permission to Build Mega-Constellation in Earth’s Orbit

SpaceX got the green signal from FCC for its Satellite-based Starlink broadband network last year. Ever since then, the company has been working to get the infrastructure ready for launching the service. Earlier this week, SpaceNews reported SpaceX’s plans to start offering broadband services by mid-2020.

To hit that timeline, the company has to complete six to eight Starlink launches with 60 satellites per launch in order to gain enough coverage to kickstart the broadband service, according to SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell. “We need 24 launches to get global coverage. Every launch after that gives you more capacity,” Shotwell told reporters.

Shotwell, 55, also portrayed the Elon Musk-led SpaceX as hungrier and scrappier than Blue Origin. She referred to the $1 billion Bezos provides to Blue Origin every year by selling Amazon stock as “free money” and suggested that the funding model has its drawbacks.

“Jeff Bezos wants to start a constellation, but he’s years behind,” Shotwell said at Baron Funds’ annual investment conference in New York. Bezos, who also runs rival rocket company Blue Origin LLC, is pursuing a satellite constellation through Amazon called Project Kuiper.

“Engineers do better when they’re pushed hardest to do great things in a very short period of time with very few resources. I think that’s when you do great work. Not when you have 20 years, do you get to orbit, do you not. I don’t think there’s the motivation or the drive there,” said Bezos.

It is worth noting that SpaceX sought approval from the International Telecommunication Union for 30,000 additional Starlink satellites in addition to the 12,000 already approved ones. On being asked about the necessity of these many satellites, Shotwell replied that SpaceX is not entirely sure if all those additional satellites would be needed. However, she hinted that the approval request was to prepare the company to offer customized services to clients.

Currently, SpaceX is working to expand the scope of the service outside the US and is seeking authorization from multiple countries. “Every country has its own process,” said Shotwell.

Customers will be receiving a terminal and a cord from SpaceX upon signing up for the service. The final design for the user terminal, however, has not been finalized yet. Also, there is no word on the commercial pricing of Starlink broadband so far.

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