SpaceX is doubling-down on its orbital broadband project and has filed paperwork with the ITU to launch 30,000 more Starlink satellites.
The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) is a global body which governs the allocation of international bandwidth. Any launch requires the ITU's permission to ensure fair, safe, and responsible satellite deployments.
SpaceX already has permission for 12,000 satellites to be launched. If the request for further launches is granted, a constellation of 42,000 satellites will be in orbit.
“As demand escalates for fast, reliable internet around the world, especially for those where connectivity is non-existent, too expensive or unreliable, SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink’s total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users’ anticipated needs,” wrote a SpaceX spokesperson in a statement.
The satellite launches will start relatively small initially, likely around a hundred or so per year, but SpaceX is expecting huge demand for satellite broadband so is covering itself early for deployments to ramp up significantly.
SpaceX is implementing a number of measures aimed at addressing industry concerns about deploying such a large number of satellites, but there are two which are particularly vital:
Include automated collision-avoidance systems in each 500lbs satellite. Given the close-call last month between a Starlink and a European weather-monitoring satellite, this will be on everyone's minds.
Turn satellites away from the Earth to prevent disruption to space researchers' scientific pursuits.
The dawn of satellite broadband is exciting. More people and devices, even in the most remote parts of the world, can be connected than ever before to reap the economic and societal benefits of global connectivity.
Like any bold new frontier, satellite broadband will also bring its challenges. However, it seems SpaceX is listening to concerns and working to address them responsibly.
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