Tens of thousands of Americans have already subscribed to SpaceX's Starlink, a rapidly expanding network of more than 3,500 satellites in low-Earth orbit. Customers pay at least $599 for a user terminal and $110 a month for service. SpaceX's plans to launch up to 4,425 first-generation satellites were cleared by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2018.
The U.S. FCC announced on Thursday that it had authorized SpaceX's request to launch up to 7,500 satellites while delaying some other decisions. In order to beam internet to places with little or no internet connection, SpaceX has applied for permission to run a constellation of 29,988 satellites dubbed as its "second-generation" or Gen2 Starlink constellation.
The FCC stated in its approval order that "our action will allow SpaceX to begin deployment of Gen2 Starlink, which will bring next-generation satellite broadband to Americans nationwide," adding that it "will enable worldwide satellite broadband service, helping to close the digital divide on a global scale."
The FCC said its decision "will protect other satellite and terrestrial operators from harmful interference and maintain a safe space environment" and protect "spectrum and orbital resources for future use."
SpaceX is required to work with other satellite operators, as well as with NASA and the National Science Foundation to protect science missions and radioastronomy, and the FCC placed a cap on the number of satellites in the second generation of the Starlink constellation, also known as Gen2, in order "to address concerns about orbital debris and space safety."
A U.S. appeals court upheld the FCC's approval of SpaceX's 2021 proposal to put certain Starlink satellites in a lower Earth orbit than first proposed in August. SpaceX is pushing to provide space-based broadband internet.
SpaceX appealed the FCC's decision to deny it 885.5 million dollars in rural broadband subsidies in September. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel stated in August that Starlink's technology "has real promise," but that it could not fulfill the requirements of the program. She cited data showing a steady decline in speeds over the previous year and criticized the service's price as being too high for consumers.
Approximately 3,500 first-generation Starlink satellites have been launched into orbit by SpaceX to date. As of June, the service had roughly 500,000 customers. Starlink's product line has also been progressively developed by the company, which now offers services to clients in the residential, commercial, RV, maritime, and aviation sectors.