Well, this is it. We’re now one step closer to Elon Musk taking over the universe.
Okay, not really. But the jack-of-all-tech superstar entrepreneur did just pocket a huge win, not for building cars or boring tunnels, but for SpaceX.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a press release on November 15 confirming that the agency was approving the requests of four companies — one of which is SpaceX — with satellite initiatives.
Specifically, SpaceX was authorized to launch more than 7,000 satellites as part of a collective group that will feature nearly 12,000 — all with the aim of improving internet connectivity.
Through this program, called Starlink, the 7,000+ satellites will orbit Earth between 208 and 215 miles away — just short of where you would find the International Space Station.
The theory goes that it will be easier and cheaper to improve internet access in remote and rural areas by clustering more satellites closer to the earth’s surface, rather relying on the larger ones, common in telecommunications applications, that orbit much further out. The very low-orbit satellites should reduce current lag and cut down on expenses associated with the existing network of equipment.
While it’s undoubtedly exciting to be on the frontier of this innovative step toward democratizing wireless internet access, Elon Musk and his crew at SpaceX do have some challenges ahead. For one, the competition is heating up — something that’s reportedly got Musk so hot under the collar that he fired seven Starlink managers in June over the slow pace of the program.
Issues could also stem from another recent FCC announcement, the unveiling of a proposal that could add regulations to the satellite industry in an effort to limit orbital debris, or “space junk.” “The proposal,” says The Washington Post, “considers whether changes to satellite designs are needed, as well as improvements in the way companies dispose of outdated satellites.”
This could result in some disposal challenges, as SpaceX’s low-orbit satellites, while smaller and cheaper, also have shorter life spans.