SpaceX will launch two experimental internet satellites on Sunday. The Federal Communications Commission supports Elon Musk's endeavor to beam superfast internet from space.
The pair of internet satellites will be among the first in about 12,000 internet satellites that the company plans to deploy for its Starlink satellite network. The geostationary satellites will piggyback as a secondary payload onboard the Falcon 9 as SpaceX launches the observation satellite Paz for Spanish provider Hisdesat on Sunday, Feb. 18.
The identical Microsat 2a and 2b satellites will validate the design and test the ground broadband connections of SpaceX's internet satellite technology, Starlink.
The experimental satellites will orbit low-Earth at 511 kilometers. Once operational, the satellites will orbit at altitudes of 1,110 kilometers to 1,325 kilometers.
FCC Gives Initial Nod
Giving the fresh boost to SpaceX's planned broadband network using satellite technologies in the United States and the world are endorsements from FCC officials.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai proposed that the agency approve the SpaceX's application.
"To bridge America's digital divide, we'll have to use innovative technologies," Pai said in a statement.
"Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available," he added.
Pai urged his colleagues in the agency to support the application to unleash the power of satellite constellations in providing high-speed internet to rural Americans.
Likewise, another FCC official says the agency should facilitate such services.
"They will multiply the number of satellites in the skies, creating extraordinary new opportunities," says FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.
FCC is the federal regulator of interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.
Broadband Internet From Space
SpaceX plans to begin the launching of operational internet satellites as early as 2019 and additional satellites will be launched in phases. The company targets a full-capacity network dubbed as "Constellation" by 2024.
The said giant network, composed of nearly 12,000 satellites, will beam internet connectivity to antenna receivers on the ground from low-Earth orbit. Some 4,425 satellites will sit at an estimate of 700 miles up, while another set of 7,518 satellites will orbit 200 miles up. The satellites will operate on different radio frequencies. The geostationary satellite network will constantly orbit around the Earth and could provide internet signal to virtually any spot on Earth at all times.
The Starlink internet satellite technology could provide internet service with speeds up to one gigabit per second with latencies that are comparable to cable and fiber internet service. Current broadband services use satellites in higher orbit with latencies of 600 milliseconds.
SpaceX intends to rake in $30 billion in revenues from its targeted 40 million subscribers to the Starlink satellite internet service by 2025.
Another company that plans to offer internet satellite service, OneWeb, received approval from the FCC last year to use low-orbit satellites.