The Federal Communications Commission has granted SpaceX permission to launch satellites at a lower altitude.
SpaceX has been deploying its Starlink satellite constellation with the goal of providing high-speed internet access to underserved communities around the world. The company has received extra impetus as a result of the pandemic, as many individuals in remote areas have struggled with reliable broadband.
The majority of the Starlink constellation operates in the 1,100 – 1,300 km range, but SpaceX is wanting to launch 2,814 satellites at a much lower range — 540 – 570 km. The FCC has agreed to the request.
Specifically, we modify the license by reducing the number of satellites from 4,409 to 4,408; modifying the primary operational altitude specified for 2,814 satellites, to change it from the 1,100-1,300 km range to the 540-570 km range
Deploying satellites in lower orbit will help improve the speed and latency of the internet access, as it shortens the distance data must travel to and from the satellite to Earth-bound base stations.
As part of the agreement, SpaceX had to agree to accept interference from Amazon’s Kuiper satellite constellation, which already had permission to operate in the lower altitude.
SpaceX has since agreed to accept interference from the Kuiper system as well with respect to its Ka-band uplinks, where operating SpaceX’s satellites at lower altitudes will potentially make SpaceX more susceptible to interference.