SpaceX wins FCC approval to put over 7,000 satellites in orbit

Elon Musk's space company aims to provide global broadband coverage.

Marrian Zhou Staff Reporter
Marrian Zhou is a Beijing-born Californian living in New York City. She joined CNET as a staff reporter upon graduation from Columbia Journalism School. When Marrian is not reporting, she is probably binge watching, playing saxophone or eating hot pot.
Marrian Zhou
2 min read

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in October 2018.

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SpaceX got the green light to send more satellites to space.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved SpaceX's request to build, deploy and operate over 7,000 satellites in the very-low-Earth orbit. SpaceX will also have more frequency bands added to its previously authorized satellites, according to the FCC's release.

The company's Starlink program is designed to use satellites at a much lower orbit to improve internet connectivity on the ground, even in rural and remote places with little to no internet access. The approval on Thursday gives SpaceX flexibility to provide high-speed broadband coverage for more areas in the US and worldwide. The licenses also require that SpaceX's satellites be deployed within nine years.

"I'm excited to see what services these proposed constellations have to offer," said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in an email statement. "Our approach to these applications reflects this Commission's fundamental approach: encourage the private sector to invest and innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers."

In February, SpaceX launched two small prototype satellites abroad one of its Falcon 9 rockets. The company said in its FCC application that an initial 800 satellites will be enough to provide US and international coverage. More satellites would offer complete coverage, as well as add broadband capacity worldwide.

In March, the FCC approved SpaceX's plan to provide global satellite broadband services. It was the first time a US-licensed satellite constellation got approved to provide broadband coverage using "a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies," the FCC said. SpaceX was granted to operate 4,425 satellites. 

Besides Elon Musk's company, FCC has also granted requests for Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada and LeoSat MA to offer broadband services in the US. 

On Nov. 15, SpaceX successfully launched two satellite for a Qatari company to provide more bandwidth for Qatar, as well as carries transponders for use by amateur, or ham, radio operators. 

First published on Nov. 15, 11 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:39 p.m. PT: Adds more information about SpaceX's satellites. 

Update on Nov. 19, 7:13 a.m. PT: Adds information about SpaceX's recent satellite launch. 

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