On the same day the FCC approved an item contemplating what to do with an enormous amount of space debris, it approved the requests of four companies that want to roll out new and expanded nongeostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) satellites.
Space Exploration Holdings (SpaceX), Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada and LeoSat were each given the green light for their respective plans. SpaceX’s constellation got U.S. authorization, while the other three were authorized by governments outside the U.S. but had sought U.S. market access.
In the case of SpaceX, the commission granted its application with certain conditions, authorizing the company to construct, deploy and operate a new very low Earth orbit constellation of more than 7,000 satellites using V-band frequencies. The commission also granted SpaceX’s request to add the 37.5-42.0 GHz and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorized NGSO constellation.
The commission said its action provides SpaceX with additional flexibility to provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users in the United States and globally.
SpaceX had asked the FCC to approve modifications to its license, reducing the altitude from 1,150 kilometers to a new altitude of 550 km. The company said the change in altitude would result in lower latency for the satellites and allow SpaceX to speed up the deployment of its constellation.
The FCC had approved a SpaceX plan last March for a satellite system comprised of 4,425 satellites and granted it the authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands for providing global internet connectivity.
The revised plan also calls for 16 fewer satellites—4,409, with the first batch of satellites to be launched before the end of 2019. In its request for modifications, SpaceX said the lower altitude would increase the space between its satellites and those of other proposed NGSO constellations, making for a better safety profile and mitigating the risk of collision.
As for the other satellite initiatives, the FCC granted their requests with certain conditions. Kepler plans to offer global connectivity for the IoT using the 10.7-12.7 GHz and 14.0-14.5 GHz frequency bands. Kepler’s proposed NGSO system, consisting of 140 satellites, is licensed by Canada.
Telesat’s system, to consist of 117 satellites, is also licensed by Canada. Telesat plans to offer high-speed, low-latency communication services using the 37.5-42.0 GHz and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands.
As for LeoSat, it was granted access to the U.S. market in the 17.8-18.6 GHz, 18.8-19.4 GHz, 19.6-20.2 GHz, 27.5-29.1 GHz, and 29.5-30.0 GHz frequency bands. LeoSat’s proposed NGSO system consists of 78 satellites, which will operate under the ITU filings of France and a planned authorization from the Netherlands.
In total, the FCC has granted 13 market access requests and satellite applications to nine companies for NGSO FSS constellations seeking authority to provide next-generation connectivity across the country in the past 18 months. More requests for constellations are being processed.