SpaceX now intends to orbit an astonishing 42,000 Starlink high-speed internet satellites instead of the 12,000 originally approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
Media reports reveal the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week filed paperwork with the ITU on behalf of SpaceX.
The request was for permission to produce and deploy 30,000 additional Starlink satellites. Industry analysts said the cost of producing and launching these 30,000 small satellites (smallsats) might reach $60 billion.
"As demand escalates for fast, reliable Internet around the world, especially for those where connectivity is non-existent, too expensive or unreliable, SpaceX is taking steps to responsibly scale Starlink's total network capacity and data density to meet the growth in users' anticipated needs," said a SpaceX spokesperson, according to Space News.
Of the 60 Starlink smallsats placed into low Earth orbit (LEO) on May 24, 57 remain operational while three are confirmed to have failed. These production design smallsats are being used to test various aspects of the Starlink super constellation network, including deorbiting.
These smallsats don't have satellite interlink capabilities and are only able to communicate with stationary ground antennas.
The Starlink super constellation will consist of cross-linked smallsats with a mass ranging from 100 kg to 500 kg. Starlink aims to develop a low-cost, high-performance satellite bus and requisite customer ground transceivers to implement a new space-based Internet communication system.
It will operate in the high-frequency bands above 24 GHz. This frequency will allow steerable earth stations to transmit antennas to have "a wider geographic impact and significantly lower satellite altitudes magnify the impact of aggregate interference from terrestrial transmissions."
SpaceX will mass-produce the satellites, benefiting from economies of scale.
Based on its original plan before the addition of 30,000 birds, SpaceX intended to deploy its 12,000 Starlink smallsats in three orbital shells. It will initially place 1,600 smallsats in a 550 km (340 miles)-altitude shell in phase one. It will then deploy 2,800 Ku- and Ka-band spectrum smallsats at 1,150 km (710 miles) and 7,500 V-band smallsats at 340 km (210 miles).