SpaceX Files for FCC Approval for 4,425 Satellite Global Broadband Constellation

Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)
Falcon 9 launch and landing. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a satellite constellation composed of 4,425 satellites to provide global broadband and communications services.

The satellites, which will weight 386 kg apiece, will fly in orbits from 1,110 km to 1,325 km and provide services in the Ku and Ka frequency bands.

Key excerpts from the application follow.

SpaceX Satellite Constellation
Application Excerpts

Space Exploration Holdings, LLC seeks operating authority (i.e., approval for orbital deployment and a station license) for a non-geostationary orbit satellite system in the Fixed-Satellite Service using the Ku and Ka frequency bands.

The SpaceX non-geostationary orbit (“NGSO”) satellite system (the “SpaceX System”) consists of a constellation of 4,425 satellites (plus in-orbit spares) operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km), as well as associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations and end user earth stations. The overall constellation will be configured as follows:

(1,600 satellites)
Final Deployment
(2,825 satellites)
Orbital Planes3232856
Satellites per Plane5050507575
Altitude1,150 km1,110 km1,130 km1,275 km1,325 km

This constellation will enable SpaceX to provide full and continuous global coverage, utilizing a minimum elevation angle of 40 degrees.

The system is designed to provide a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental and professional users worldwide. Advanced phased array beam-forming and digital processing technologies within the satellite payload give the system the ability to make highly efficient use of Ku- and Ka-band spectrum resources and the flexibility to share that spectrum with other licensed users. User terminals operating with the SpaceX System will use similar phased array technologies to allow for highly directive, steered antenna beams that track the system’s low-Earth orbit satellites.

Credit: SpaceX

Gateway earth stations also apply advanced phased array technologies to generate high-gain steered beams to communicate with multiple NGSO satellites from a single gateway site. The system will also employ optical inter-satellite links for seamless network management and continuity of service, which will also aid in complying with emissions constraints designed to facilitate spectrum sharing with other systems.

Credit: SpaceX
Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX will provision to launch up to two extra spacecraft per plane to replenish the constellation in the event of on-orbit failures. If a case arises wherein a spare is not immediately needed, it will remain dormant in the same orbit and will perform station-keeping and debris avoidance maneuvers along with the rest of the active constellation. Because these spare satellites will not operate their communications payloads, and the TT&C facilities communicate in turn with a fixed number of satellites at all times, the addition of spare satellites will not affect the interference analyses for TT&C operations presented in this application.