FCC chair backs SpaceX plan to provide broadband by satellite


Elon Musk's SpaceX, basking in the successful launch this month of its heavy rocket Falcon, the world's most powerful rocket, won an endorsement on Wednesday from the top USA communications regulator to build a broadband network using satellites.

US Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday recommended the agency approve SpaceX's application to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the US and on a global basis.

The broadband project is to get an early test component on Saturday, when SpaceX is slated to launch a pair of demonstration satellites, known as Microsat-2a and -2b, to test a broadband antenna to be included in the proposed constellation, according to a SpaceX document filed with the FCC. Other companies including Canada's Telesat, the UK's OneWeb and Space Norway have also received approval from the FCC on similar proposals.

"The 30th Space Wing is ready to support the first West Coast SpaceX launch of 2018", said Col. Greg Wood, 30th Space Wing vice commander and the person who will give a final permission for the launch to occur.

Those are the two satellites that SpaceX previously said would be used in its first phase of broadband testing. They are using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellites to blanket the areas with broadband coverage at more affordable rates than previous satellite technologies. Although SpaceX has not revealed anything regarding its Starlink project, its business plans include sending thousands of communication satellites into orbit with limited service beginning by 2020.

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Cooper said satellites could help provide broadband access to rural communities.

Each satellite in SpaceX's planned group will weigh about 850 lbs (386 kg).

On 6 February, SpaceX launched the world's most powerful rocket, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy, from Florida. Speeds for the internet service will reach up to one gigabit per second (Gbps), far ahead the 31 Mbps an average USA household receives. That low-orbit position could deliver broadband speeds equal to current speeds from traditional providers, the company says.

SpaceX launches global internet constellation in order to provide internet accessibility everywhere on the Earth. Kepler's larger operational constellation will also sport intersatellite links to downlink information for other spacecraft, including satellites and space stations.