Elon Musk’s grand plan to dominate the skies just became a lot grander as another application emerges, this time to add 30,000 satellites to the SpaceX constellation.
Submitted to the ITU by the FCC on behalf of SpaceX, the paperwork would add scope for an additional 30,000 satellites on top of the 12,000 the company already has permission to launch. According to Space News, the FCC submitted 20 filings, each for 1,500 satellites at different low-earth orbits.
In recent years, satellite connectivity has proven to be an unpopular means with many telcos in developed nations turning noses up at the idea. There was an attitude present in the industry that satellites were for poorer nations who did not control the same budgets, though the industry does seem to be coming around.
At Mobile World Congress this year, several companies were touting their assets to the increasingly cash-strapped telcos. With the cost of investment in access infrastructure soaring, satellite is becoming a more popular feature of the connectivity patchwork to deliver services to those in isolated and inaccessible regions.
It does seem the ambitious Musk is backing the continuation of this trend. Apparently 12,000 satellites isn’t anywhere near enough.
Interestingly enough, reports have also emerged SpaceX is in discussions with the US army for its Starlink broadband network. High-speed, low-latency communications are a no-brainer for the army, especially when you consider the global presence of the US army, though it does appear the team is in discussion for the Starship part of the business also.
As it stands, SpaceX’s Starship is currently working with NASA as a logistics partner after the space agency retired its space shuttle programme. However, it is also suggested the army is interesting in Starship as a means to quickly move personal around the globe.
The low-orbit satellite segment is certainly starting to heat-up, and this revelation should add more fuel to the fire. Alongside SpaceX, the likes of OneWeb, Space Norway, Telesat, and Amazon are also fighting for real-estate amongst the stars. Theoretically, the low-orbit satellites should offer greater levels of performance than traditional satellites, gigabit speeds and latency less than 25 ms, though pricing has not been unveiled by the providers.
It is promising to see aggressive progress to enhance the rich tapestry of connectivity, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome. There are currently c.5,000 satellites circling the earth, of which only around 2,000 are in operation. With some very wealthy companies launching tens of thousands of satellites into the skies, each will have to prove their plans to minimize debris and prevent collisions.
As it stands, SpaceX has 60 satellites in the skies, which could be as many as 1,000 in the very near future. Considering there are only 2,000 currently in operation, the skies could become very busy in the very near future.