FCC Grants SpaceX Approval for Starlink Satellites to Orbit Lower

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a proposed change from SpaceX to the company’s satellite license, according to CNBC. The approval comes despite major opposition from fellow satellite internet companies Amazon and Viasat.

In the approval, the FCC wrote, “We conclude that grant of the SpaceX Third Modification Application will serve the public interest.” The order continued, “Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems.”

The modification to Starlink’s satellite license changes the altitude at which Starlink’s satellite constellation is approved to orbit, with the request having been filed about a year ago. With the FCC’s approval, SpaceX can now launch Starlink satellites to an altitude of 570 km, lowered from the previously approved altitude of 1,100 km.

Project Kuiper, Amazon’s satellite internet company, is approved for an altitude of 590-630 km, just above Starlink’s recent modification.

Starlink currently has about 1,400 satellites orbiting in its constellation, while Project Kuiper will wait until 2022 to launch any of its satellites.

Amazon space exploration company Blue Origin also claimed Tuesday that NASA “moved the goalposts” in awarding a contract to SpaceX for returning to the moon.

The next SpaceX Starlink satellite launch is set to take place tonight.