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SpaceX Satellite Constellation Program—Access For All

Satellite Constellation

SpaceX Satellite Constellation Program

I don’t think anyone can deny that Elon Musk thinks BIG.  I’m talking really big, constellation big. The SpaceX Satellite Constellation program is underway. This is a global space-based, orbiting, internet, low latency, gigabit speed, communications system (That’s a mouthful). Low-cost, high-performance global internet access are the goals of this project. This is a noble pursuit to bring low-cost high-speed internet to the entire planet.

FCC Filing

Last November the company filed an application with the FCC.  No official date has been announced but the application’s technical description mentions 2019 as a possible time frame for the beginning of launches of satellites into orbit. The plan calls for placing 4,425 satellites into low-Earth orbits, with an altitude range of 715 miles to 823 miles. This is a much lower orbit than the existing Hughes network which orbits at 22,000 miles above the earth.

Latency

According to the FCC current satellite ISPs have a latency of about 600 milliseconds. Because of the lower earth orbit, SpaceX estimates latency will be 25 to 35 milliseconds. A significant reduction. Musk estimated the project will cost 10 billion and take five years to complete. Satellite Internet could offer a more cost-effective alternative to fiber so companies like Google have scaled back their own plans to invest in fiber.

Revenue

The Wall Street Journal cited numbers that projected revenue from this project could reach $30 billion by 2025.  This would be six times that of SpaceX’ rocket business.  The company’s profits could rise above $20 billion.

Hearing

There was a recent hearing titled “Investing in America’s Broadband Infrastructure: Exploring Ways to Reduce Barriers to Deployment”. US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation gathered to explore the SpaceX proposal.

The committee heard from government representatives and members of the industry who spoke about the best ways to offer broadband access and more. Ms. Patricia Cooper, the VP of Satellite Government Affairs for SpaceX provided the company’s vision.

“SpaceX sees substantial demand for high-speed broad band in the United States and worldwide. As the Committee is aware, millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access. Furthermore, even in urban areas, a majority of Americans lacks more than a single fixed broadband provider from which to choose and may seek additional competitive options for high-speed service.”

Cooper also cited something we have known for some time now and that is that the US is behind other developed nations in terms of broadband speed, access, and cost (See our article…..)

At a time where demand for expanded broadband services are growing at an exceptional rate and current supply does not come close to meeting the demand, the SpaceX Satellite Constellation project seems to be on target.  Testing will begin this year. With no delays, the project could be completed by 2024.

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