SpaceX’s Starlink has received approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate more of its satellites in a low-earth orbit.
The FCC approved the modification to Starlink’s license in a document posted to its website today, April 27 2021. The change allows Starlink to lower the altitude of 2,814 satellites from 1,100-1,300km to 540-570km above the earth.
SpaceX currently has more than 1,400 satellites in orbit at an altitude of 540-570km. The company’s original plan was to deliver 1,584 at that altitude, before switch to an altitude of between 1,100-1,300km for the next 2,814 satellites.
“We conclude that grant of the SpaceX Third Modification Application will serve the public interest. Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems,” said the ruling.
The application was not without its opponents, with more than 200 objections filed against the modification. Most of those objections were based on the premise that more low-earth orbit satellites would increase electromagnetic interference or increase the risk of satellite collisions, both of which the FCC said had no merit.
“Based on our review, we agree with SpaceX that the modification will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in often-underserved polar regions,” the order states. “We conclude that operations at the lower altitude will have beneficial effects with respect to orbital debris mitigation. We also find that SpaceX’s modification will not present significant interference problems, as assessed under Commission precedent.”
It was feared SpaceX might have to delay some launches if the modification was not granted soon. With the approval SpaceX can now continue with its launch schedule as planned, with the next one set for tomorrow, April 28.