SpaceX was approved to fly thousands more satellites at a lower orbit despite pushback from competitors

Elon musk
Elon Musk. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
  • The FCC approved SpaceX’s application to have 2,824 satellites at a lower orbit.
  • The approval brings SpaceX’s number of allowed satellites at that orbit to 4,408.
  • The FCC addressed concerns about increased collision risks in its Tuesday order.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Federal Communications Commission has approved SpaceX’s request to fly 2,824 of its Starlink satellites at a lower orbit,

The internet-spewing satellites can now fly at an altitude of 540 to 570 kilometers instead of 1,000 kilometers, the agency said. SpaceX’s Starlink previously received the green light to launch 1,584 satellites at the lower orbit.

The new approval brings the number of Starlink satellites at the lower orbit to a total of 4,408.

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and chief executive officer, is hoping to launch tens of thousands more satellites by 2027 to get people in rural and remote regions of the Earth online with affordable, high-speed web access.

“Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems,” the FCC said in its April 23 order, which was published Tuesday.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the matter.

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Other companies in the race to create a global satellite internet network, such as ViaSat and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, disputed SpaceX’s application for more lower-orbit satellites, which the FCC addressed in its order. Space companies feared an increased risk of collision with thousands more satellites at the same level in orbit.

Earlier this month, OneWeb, a UK satellite company, said SpaceX’s satellites nearly collided with their own, but SpaceX denied the close call in an FCC filing.

“SpaceX’s plan concerning avoiding collisions with large objects (both active satellites and debris) involved three main elements, recognizing that such risks can be reduced by maneuvering to avoid predicted collisions and by removing objects from orbit after their mission is complete,” the FCC said.

An Amazon spokesperson said the FCC outcome was positive, as it, “places clear conditions on SpaceX.”

“These conditions address our primary concerns regarding space safety and interference, and we appreciate the Commission’s work to maintain a safe and competitive environment in low earth orbit,” Amazon said.