SpaceX To Build 4,000 Broadband Satellites in Seattle

June 16, 2016 – 01:19 pm

SpaceX founder Elon Musk in Seattle announcing plans to build a 4, 000-satellite constellation. Credit: Washington Aerospace Partnership via TwitterPARIS — Elon Musk on Jan. 16 said SpaceX has submitted to international regulators the necessary documentation for a global satellite Internet project to eventually include some 4, 000 satellites in low Earth orbit and initial service within five years.

He also said Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX would not be pursuing a stock market listing for many years given the volatility of the launch-services market.

Musk did not provide a name for his satellite project, and there was no immediate way to verify what he or SpaceX have submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Geneva-based United Nations agency that regulates orbital slots and radio spectrum. Also unclear is what radio frequencies the SpaceX network would used to deliver broadband from low Earth orbit.

“There’s multiple elements to the regulatory things, ” Musk said in answer to a question during an invitation-only speech in Seattle announcing the creation of the SpaceX satellite factory there. “There’s the ITU filings and we’ve done the filings associated with that.”

YouTube user Cliff O posted this video of Elon Musk’s Jan. 16 speech in Seattle. The event was closed to media.

The ITU operates on a first-come, first-served basis, meaning any satellite system that had registered to use the same frequencies before SpaceX made its filings would have priority over SpaceX.

Depending on the frequencies selected, a global network in low Earth orbit – Musk said his constellation would be at an altitude of around 1, 100 kilometers – would need to avoid interfering with signals from satellites in higher geostationary orbit 36, 000 kilometers over the equator.

Musk’s announcement came just two days after OneWeb LLC, formerly called WorldVu Satellites, announced that Virgin Galactic of London and Qualcomm Inc. of San Diego had agreed to invest in OneWeb’s 650-satellite system.

Under the name WorldVu, OneWeb has secured ITU authorization for a Ku-band network at 1, 200 kilometers in altitude with in-service deadlines in 2018 and 2020. OneWeb, based in Britain’s Channel Islands, will need to avoid the large number of Ku-band telecommunications satellites operating in higher orbit, and will be particularly challenged to operate around the equator given that most Ku-band satellites are in geostationary orbit.


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