Elon Musk's SpaceX has received approvals from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put a constellation of almost 12,000 satellites into orbit that would foster cheap wireless Internet access by the 2020s.
These 11,943 satellites - between 220 and 1,100 pounds in size - will form the expansive Starlink broadband network, created to provide worldwide high speed internet access by ensuring that at least one satellite is always above the horizon for anyone on Earth.
Last month, reports said Musk fired some of the senior managers on the satellite constellation project, known as Starlink, at SpaceX's office in Redmond, Wash., because of disagreements over the speed of developing and testing the satellites. SpaceX is expected to spend more than United States dollars 10 Million for this project with the aim of having it operational by the mid-2020s.
SpaceX plans to launch a communications satellite and land a rocket today (Nov. 15), and you can catch all the action live. But, the company has increased its launch capacity in 2018, with four more scheduled for a total of 22 launches.
Authorisation comes as SpaceX successfully launched its 18th rocket into space from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, with a Falcon 9 rocket lifting Qatar's Es'hail 2 communications satellite into orbit.
By keeping the satellites in a lower orbit, SpaceX said it would be easier to get rid of defunct satellites without contributing to the already massive space junk problem. The companies are Space Exploration Holdings (SpaceX), Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada and LeoSat. Instead of sending Internet traffic to just a handful of satellites in geosynchronous orbit, the companies hope to boost satellite Internet speeds by using many cheaper satellites that orbit closer to earth. With Starlink's satellites expected to be of similar size - between 220 and 1,100 pounds - an ambitious effort could at least put all of them into orbit at its present launch pace. The FCC granted OneWeb access to the USA market in 2017, and OneWeb's first satellites could be launched from Arianespace's spaceport in French Guiana as early as next February. The three companies will launch 117,78 and 140 satellites respectively.
Telecommunications giant Intelsat, which operates 50 geostationary satellites, chose a different option and signed a contract with Space Logistics, a branch of Northrop Grumman, for its MEV, a "very simple system" vice president Ken Lee told AFP is much like a "tow truck". Development of the Starlink satellites began in 2015.