Last November, SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to launch 4,425 satellites to provide high speed internet around the globe. While current satellite internet can be slow and high-latency, the company promises that its proposed service will be much better by using custom satellites deployed into low-Earth orbit. In a Senate hearing today on US Broadband infrastructure, SpaceX’s Vice President of Satellite Government Affairs, Patricia Cooper, explained the company’s plan, which includes its intention to begin launch operations in 2019.
SpaceX hopes to start testing its satellites before the end of this year and continuing through the early months of 2018. If that’s successful, the company plans to launch satellites in phases between 2019 and 2024, after which the system will be at full capacity. SpaceX plans to launch the system with its Falcon 9 rocket, which has been successfully launched and landed with an eye toward re-usability. The entire system, said Patricia Cooper, is meant to provide a high volume of broadband capacity at “fiber-like” speeds over a wide area. The company says it’s designed its system to be highly adaptable, too, with the ability to “steer dynamically a large pool of beams to focus capacity where it is needed.” The company also promises that its system will be cost-effective.
Patricia Cooper said in her statement “Initially, the SpaceX system will consist of 4,425 satellites operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km). This system will also require associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations, and end user earth stations. Using Ka- and Ku-Band spectrum, the initial system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users worldwide. SpaceX has separately filed for authority to operate in the V-Band, where we have proposed an additional constellation of 7,500 satellites operating even closer to Earth. In the future, these satellites would provide additional broadband capacity to the SpaceX system and further reduce latency where populations are heavily concentrated.”