Technology

SpaceX allowed to place its Starlink satellites at a lower altitude

Hundreds of satellites have already been put into orbit by the company of billionaire Elon Musk. (Photo: Getty images)

SpaceX was authorized on Tuesday to place the satellites of its Starlink constellation, which is expected to provide high-speed internet from space in the future, to a lower-than-expected orbit, while agreeing to certain conditions after protests from several other companies, including Amazon.

The changes “are in the public interest,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled in a decision posted online.

Hundreds of satellites have already been put into orbit by the company of billionaire Elon Musk, who continues to launch them in particular, in the long term, to cover poorly connected or isolated areas of the globe.

But SpaceX had asked the American regulator for permission to be able to place a certain number of them, around 2,800, in an orbit lower than initially planned (540-570 km altitude instead of 1,000-1,300 km).

Amazon protested at the time, arguing that it would bring Elon Musk’s satellites into the orbit of its own constellation project to provide internet, Project Kuiper, in which Jeff Bezos’ company plans to invest $ 10 billion.

“Based on our analysis, we agree with SpaceX that the changes will improve the experience for users of SpaceX’s service, including in the frequently served regions of the poles,” the FCC wrote in its decision.

She also estimated that a lower orbit could allow satellites to be recovered more quickly when needed, which could have “beneficial effects” in terms of reducing space debris.

But the FCC also imposed conditions on SpaceX, including that of accepting “any further interference” with other satellites that would result from this modification. What SpaceX has consented to, according to the US regulator.

“It is a positive outcome which sets clear conditions for SpaceX”, in particular that of “accepting additional interference”, declared an Amazon spokesperson in a message sent to AFP, thanking the Commission for “Maintain a secure and competitive environment in low Earth orbit”.

Another condition imposed on SpaceX is that these satellites never exceed an altitude of 580 km, which will keep them below the orbit in which those of Kuiper are to be placed (590 km).

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who both founded space companies and are also vying for the title of the richest man in the world, are in fierce competition. Mr Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, filed another complaint on Monday protesting NASA’s decision to choose SpaceX to drop the next US astronauts to the moon, and not its own proposal.

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