SpaceX has received Federal Communications Commission approves to halve the orbital height of more than 1,500 broadband satellites designed to reduce the risk of space remains and hidden enhancement.
The SpaceX satellite project, called Starlink, aims to provide hidden, low-lying broadband around the world. In a statement on Flintshire County Council's new approval, SpaceX said that "Starlink's production is well underway, and the first group of satellites have already reached the launch site to process it."
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SpaceX received Flintshire County Council's approval last year to launch 4,425 low-lying satellites at several different heights between 1,110km to 1,325km. However, Flintshire County Council's approval depended on SpaceX filing a more detailed debris mitigation scheme.
As part of its plan to stop space residues, SpaceX later asked for permission to operate 1,584 of those satellites at a height of 550km rather than the 1,150km previously authorized. The County Council approved the application in order on Friday, but noted that SpaceX still had to file a detailed debris mitigation scheme for the rest of the satellites.
"Given the atmospheric drag at this low altitude, this relocation will significantly improve space security by ensuring that any orbital remains will rejoin and disappear in the atmosphere quickly," SpaceX told FCC in November 2018 application for a license modification.
At the lowest altitude, "any orbital remains will go back and disappear quickly in the atmosphere, even if a spacecraft fails in orbit." (SpaceX designs its satellites to burn completely during atmospheric re-entry to prevent bodily harm from falling objects.)
Satellites that rotate at 1,150 km will take "hundreds of years to enter the Earth's atmosphere," but SpaceX satellite "will take less than five years (even under assumptions and the causes) worst) if it starts at an altitude of 550 km, "the company said.
The lowest height will bring benefit to broadband users, SpaceX explained. "By operating closer to the Earth, SpaceX would also reduce its latency of its communications signals to as little as 15 thousandth seconds, and at that time it would almost be impractical for almost all users, "The company said. t (SpaceX has said that latency from a height of 1,150km would be 25m to 35m.)
Low altitude compromises
However, there are disadvantages of using lower altitude, however.
The same very atmospheric drag that helps to sweep the clean orbit of debris also forces satellites to work harder to stay in orbit, "SpaceX wrote." "Staying outdoors requires the satellite to overcome more atmospheric drag. In addition, satellites operating at low altitude see less of the Earth, asking for more satellites to serve a certain area. "
SpaceX said that it has carried out tests that show it can solve these problems. SpaceX said it intended to "operate at this height nevertheless based partly on feedback obtained from its experimental satellites, which have carried out extensive testing of SpaceX's capabilities to operate in the lower 500km range. SpaceX has learned to mitigate the disadvantages operating at a lower height and still benefit from the obvious and substantial benefits. "
SpaceX also plans to reduce the number of satellites in the low-Earth rotational constellation from 4,425 to 4,409. The proposed height of the remaining 4,409 satellites has not changed. Under its Flintshire County Council authorization, SpaceX must launch at least half of these satellites by March 29, 2024 and the remainder by March 29, 2027.
The FCC said it was satisfied with the SpaceX debris mitigation scheme for the 1,584 satellite subject of the height change. But SpaceX must submit a more detailed plan for the rest of the satellites.
"While we see that the orbital debris mitigation scheme is adequate in terms of the space stations that SpaceX intends to operate under its modification, SpaceX has not provided any new information on the orbital debris mitigation schemes for the other satellites. in its proposed system, "Flintshire County Council said. t "SpaceX has only partially met the condition on its authorizations requiring SpaceX to submit, and approved by the Commission, an orbital residue mitigation scheme prior to the commencement of the service."
The new height of 550km is not the lowest that SpaceX intends to use for its broadband service. SpaceX received a separate authorization in November 2018 to use 7,518 broadband satellite at altitudes from 335km to 346km. These satellites are intended to boost capacity and reduce hidden in heavily populated areas. Overall, SpaceX has Flintshire County Council's approval to launch nearly 12,000 broadband satellites.
This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.
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