Elon Musk’s internet-in-space project today received a boost, as SpaceX Corp. got approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to launch an additional 7,518 broadband satellites.
The additional satellites, which are on top of the 4,425 for which SpaceX already has approval, form part of the Starlink project announced by Musk at an event in January 2015.
Starlink is aiming to provide internet access anywhere on the globe via an array of low earth orbit satellites deployed at altitudes ranging from 715 to 823 miles. Existing satellites that provide Internet services are as high up as 22,000 miles, whereas Musk’s “space internet” satellites have a dramatically reduced lag time thanks to their closer orbiting range. In theory, they could provide speeds and latency similar to fiber optic cable.
The first two experimental Starlink satellites were launched in February with SpaceX planning on having the entire network deployed by the mid-2020s.
SpaceX wasn’t alone in obtaining permission to launch new satellites. The FCC also gave permission to Kepler Communications Inc., Telesat Canada Inc., and LeoSat Enterprises Inc. to launch 140, 117 and 78 satellites, respectively.
All three are offering internet services, but the Kepler application may be the most interesting. The FCC states that Kepler aims to “offer global connectivity for the Internet of Things, especially sensors and other intelligent devices.”
According to Kepler, the service is primarily pitched at the logistics and shipping industries, allowing users to remotely monitor everything from cargo through a fixed infrastructure via low-power, ultra-small IoT transceivers.
“Simply from providing high-speed broadband services in some of the remote areas to offering global connectivity to the Internet of Things with the help of a ‘routers in space’ for data backhaul, I’m excited to see what services these proposed constellations are going to offer,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai revealed in a statement. “Our approach to these applications reflects that which is the major commission’s fundamental approach: encourage the private sector to invest and merely to innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers.”