SpaceX gets approval from FCC chief for its internet satellite project

SpaceX’s planned internet satellite system received an approval from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday. With the space-based broadband service now supported by the FCC chief, it is now up to the four other commissioners of the regulatory board to fully greenlight the proposed project.

In a press release about his decision, the FCC chief stated that SpaceX’s plan would ultimately benefit America as a whole. After all, with the space-bound broadband system in place, even the most remote areas in the United States, and even the world, would have access to the internet.

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application—along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems—involves one such innovation.

“Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available.”

Pai called on his colleagues at the FCC board to approve SpaceX’s proposed satellite internet plan as well. The FCC chief further noted that the commission had already approved similar proposals in the past, namely from firms such as OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat.

“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” the FCC chief said in the recent press release.

The Elon Musk-led space firm’s broadband plan involves sending thousands of satellites into space to beam back internet access to users across the globe. SpaceX had previously asked the FCC for approval to deploy a constellation of 4,425 satellites that would operate roughly 700 to 800 miles above Earth.

SpaceX’s space-bound internet plan is set to get an early test this coming Saturday, with the private space firm expected to launch a pair of satellites, Microsat-2a and -2b, as a means to test a broadband antenna that would be used for the proposed constellation. The Falcon 9 rocket carrying Microsat-2a and -2b is expected to be launched from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

As we noted in a previous report, SpaceX’s proposed internet constellation has been progressing quite well over the past year. While it seemed like the space-based broadband system would be meeting a roadblock in the form of new regulations from the FCC and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) last year, further analysis of the updates eventually revealed that the updated rulings would ultimately help SpaceX’s broadband constellation in the long run. 

SpaceX gets approval from FCC chief for its internet satellite project
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