SpaceX, the private rocket launch service owned by Elon Musk, has filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) seeking approval for launching 4,425 satellites.
This figure surpasses the total number of satellites on the Earth's orbit. California-based SpaceX apparently intends to deploy these satellites to offer high-speed broadband and communication services all over the world.
The petition was filed on Tuesday, Nov. 15.
In January 2015, SpaceX had shared that it intends on having a constellation of satellites in orbit in the next five years. This was during the time the company opened up a facility for satellite development in Redmond, Washington. However, a few months down the line, in October 2015, SpaceX's excitement about the prospect seemed to have ebbed.
"I would say that this is actually very speculative at this point. We don't have a lot of effort going into that right now," says Gwynne Shotwell, the President of SpaceX.
Now, with the FCC application surfacing online, it seems that SpaceX has had a change of heart and we could see a satellite constellation in orbit by 2020 as the company goes ahead with the project.
SpaceX Satellites Just As Big As A Mini Cooper
SpaceX's intended constellation will comprise several satellites, each of which weighs nearly 850 lbs. The size of each satellite will be comparable to a Mini Cooper. The satellite will orbit at an altitude of 715 miles to 790 miles.
This altitude will enable each satellite to potentially cover a curve of 1,300 miles width. The satellites have a lifespan of 5 years and post that they will deorbit according to SpaceX.
Broadband And Communications Services
The appeal notes that the "constellation" of satellites will provide SpaceX "full and continuous global coverage." This will work on the bands Ku (works on the 12 GHz to 18GHz spectrum range) and Ka (works on the 26.5 GHz to 40 GHz spectrum range).
Currently, the Tracking Data Relay Satellite from NASA which is used for the ISS and space shuttle communications uses the K band. This basically means that SpaceX is looking to lay its stake on the airwaves in the bands that are above and below the agency's overview.
The satellites will aid SpaceX offer high-speed communication and broadband services globally.
"The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, government and professional users worldwide," notes SpaceX in the tech documents that accompanied the filing.
SpaceX also has a project of building a colony on Mars and the satellites could potentially be used to essay the role of a communications infrastructure, which is a necessity for the colony to flourish.
Moreover, SpaceX could use the infrastructure of its satellite constellation to good use to take advantage of wireless internet that is poised to become an inimical part of our lives with the advent of driverless cars, such as those being made by Google and Tesla.
Or simply put, SpaceX just wants a piece of the action and foray into the U.S. internet industry which is currently being monopolized.