Bankrupt OneWeb Seeks to Increase Satellite Constellation Up to 48,000 Satellites

LONDON, UK, May 27, 2020 (OneWeb PR) – OneWeb, the global communications company with a mission to connect governments, businesses and people everywhere, submitted a modification request to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to increase the number of satellites in its constellation up to 48,000 satellites. This larger OneWeb constellation will allow for greater flexibility to meet soaring global connectivity demands.

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Trump Administration Formally Asks FCC to Reconsider Ligado Decision

The Trump Administration has formally requested that the Federal Communications Commission reconsider its approval to Ligado to construct a nationwide mobile broadband network that it says “will cause irreparable harms to federal government users of the Global Positioning System (GPS).”

The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA) filed the appeal to rescind the approval on behalf of the Trump Administration, particularly the departments of Defense (DOD) and Transportation (DOT).

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House Science Committee Leaders Criticize FCC Action on Orbital Space Debris

WASHINGTON (House Science Committee PR) – House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas and Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson released a statement today on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote on new regulations for orbital space debris. 

“As we said in our letter to the FCC last week, regulatory action at this time, without consensus across federal agencies and clear authority from Congress, will at the very least create confusion and undermine the Commission’s work, and at worst undermine U.S. economic competitiveness and leadership in space,” Lucas and Johnson wrote. “Despite a host of concerns raised by this Committee, other federal agencies, and industry stakeholders, the FCC moved forward. This rulemaking process alone is problematic. During a global pandemic and unprecedented public health and economic challenges, the decision to take action on a significant regulatory change is unnecessary and ill-advised. As the Commission proceeds, we expect them to work with our Committee and all relevant federal agencies on an appropriate policy framework for orbital debris.”

FCC Unanimously Approves Ligado’s Application to Facilitate 5G and Internet of Things Services

Conditions Will Protect Incumbents from Harmful Interference

WASHINGTON (FCC PR) — The Federal Communications Commission announced that it has approved with conditions Ligado’s application to deploy a low-power terrestrial nationwide network in the L-Band that will primarily support 5G and Internet of Things services.

The order approving Ligado’s application was adopted without dissent and will promote more efficient and effective use of our nation’s spectrum resources and ensure that adjacent band operations, including the Global Positioning System (GPS), are protected from harmful interference.

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FCC Updates Rules on Orbital Debris Mitigation

WASHINGTON, April 23, 2020 (FCC PR) —The Federal Communications Commission today comprehensively updated its satellite rules on orbital debris mitigation for the first time in over 15 years.

The Commission also voted to seek further public comment on other proposals related to mitigating orbital debris. Orbital debris, also known as space debris, can pose a risk to satellites and inhabitable spacecraft, and in some instances, pieces of debris falling back to earth can pose a risk to persons and property on the surface of the earth.

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FCC Fact Sheet on Proposed Orbital Debris Mitigation Rules

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

Mitigation of Orbital Debris in the New Space Age
Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, IB Docket No. 18-313
Proposed Rules
(119 Pages)

Fact Sheet

Background: Since 2004, when the Commission first adopted rules regarding orbital debris mitigation for Commission-authorized satellites, there have been a number of developments in technologies and business models that pose new or additional orbital debris risks. These developments include the increasing deployment of lower-cost small satellites and of large constellations of non-geostationary satellite orbit systems, some potentially involving thousands of satellites.

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House Members Ask FCC To Delay Action on Orbital Debris Rules

Distribution of space debris around Earth (Credit: ESA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Three leaders of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology have called upon the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to delay action on new orbital debris mitigation rules planned for Thursday.

“Given the unprecedented circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, the immense effort undertaken to recover from the pandemic, and the potential for the FCC’s proposal to exacerbate impacts on U.S. industry and international competitiveness at a critical period in our nation’s history, we hope that you will agree to postpone future action,” the letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai read.

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Swarm Obtains Commercial Operating License

Swarm satellite (Credit: Swarm Technologies)

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (Swarm Technologies PR) — We are thrilled to announce that Swarm is now fully licensed to launch our commercial offering. Having received all regulatory approvals to operate commercially in the US, in several other countries, and over international waters, we are one step closer to providing affordable satellite connectivity to the world.

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SpaceX Seeks FCC Approval to Fly Starship to 20 Km

Starship on the moon. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has submitted an application to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for communications frequencies to fly its Starship vehicle to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) at its Boca Chica Beach facility in Texas.

The approval would allow for communications between the vehicle and the ground. The proposed six-month time frame for the flight is from March 16 to Sept. 16, 2020.

Starship is a prototype of an orbital vehicle that Elon Musk’s company is developing for missions in Earth orbit and to the moon and Mars. SpaceX also hopes to use it for rapid point-to-point transportation between distant cities on earth.

SpaceX, Kepler and Swarm Included on Australian List of Foreign Providers

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Australian government has approved SpaceX, Swarm Technologies and Kepler Communications for inclusion on a list of foreign companies allowed to seek approvals to provide communications services in the country.

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Trump Administration Opposes Additional Study of Possible 5G Weather Satellite Interference

GOES-17 satellite during processing by Astrotech. (Credit: NASA)

The Trump Administration is opposed to any further study on whether new 5G communications services will interfere with meteorological satellites and degrade the accuracy of weather forecasting.

In a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), the White House said it wants a provision removed from the FY 2020 funding bill that would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to review the impact of 5G services operating in the 23.6 to 24 gigahertz bands on weather satellites.

“Such a study would be directly duplicative of past Agency studies on this subject, which were fully considered by the Administration in a lengthy interagency process earlier this year, leading to a carefully-wrought compromise that balances the spectrum needs of government and private enterprise,” wrote Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Some studies have shown that 5G transmissions could interfere with weather satellites. However, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai has criticized the studies as flawed.

FCC Approves Swarm Constellation of 150 Satellites

Swarm satellite (Credit: Swarm Technologies)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a license to Swarm Technologies to operate a non-voice communications satellite constellation composed of 150 satellites smaller than an 1U CubeSat.

“Over 20 entities filed letters in support of granting Swarm’s application. These entities plan to utilize Swarm’s network to provide a variety of communications services in support of agribusiness, transportation, and academic and scientific research,” the FCC said in its memorandum approving the application.

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SpaceX Files Applications for 30,000 More Starlink Satellites

60 Starlink satellites inside the Falcon 9 payload fairing. (Credit: Elon Musk)

SpaceNews reports that SpaceX has filed spectrum allocation paperwork with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for up to 30,000 additional Starlink broadband satellites.

The FCC, on SpaceX’s behalf, submitted 20 filings to the ITU for 1,500 satellites apiece in various low Earth orbits, an ITU official confirmed Oct. 15 to SpaceNews. 

SpaceX deployed its first 60 Starlink satellites in May and plans to launch hundreds — potentially over a thousand — more in the year ahead. 

The ITU, a United Nations entity, coordinates spectrum at the international level for satellite operators to prevent signal interference and spectrum hogging. National regulators submit filing on behalf of their country’s satellite operators.

The 30,000 satellites are in addition to 12,000 medium-orbit Starlink satellites already approved by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Elon Musk’s company is planning up to four additional Falcon 9 launches of Starlink satellites by the end of the year. Dates for those flights have not been publicly announced. Additional launches would follow in 2020.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Program Delay: 3+ Years

An instrumented mannequin sits in the Crew Dragon spacecraft for the Demo-1 mission. (Credit: SpaceX)

Updated Oct. 9, 2019 at 9:08 am PDT with paragraph summarizing some of the reasons for the schedule delays.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

There’s been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about NASA’s delay plagued Commercial Crew Program, which is designed to restore the nation’s ability to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.

Prior to SpaceX CEO’s Elon Musk’s Sept. 28 webcast update on the Starship program, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine expressed frustration that the company wasn’t more focused on the Crew Dragon program that hasn’t flown astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) yet.

Asked about the delay by a CNN journalist after giving an update on Starship’s progress on Sept. 28, Musk questioned whether Bridenstine was asking about delays at with commercial crew or with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). He laughed and mugged for the camera.

Musk’s rabid fans cheered it to be a sick burn against against a slow-moving space agency. The administrator diplomatically called it not helpful. He also revealed the cause of his pique.

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Blue Origin Plans 2 More New Shepard Flights Before Flying People

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

CNBC reports that Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plans two more flight tests of the reusable New Shepard booster and capsule before flying people on suborbital flights. The additional tests could delay the first human flight into next year.

CEO Bob Smith has talked about the first crewed flight of New Shepard happening as early as the end of 2018 – but that goal has steadily been pushed back. Smith, in an interview with CNBC on Tuesday, explained why Blue Origin has delayed the first crewed flight and continued to test.

“It’s really the robustness of our entire system. It’s not one individual thing that’s driving [these delays],” Smith said. “It’s us being cautious and thorough with the total systems we need to verify.”

He noted that Blue Origin has been pushing the limits of its software and hardware, as well as testing its BE-3 rocket engine for extreme and unexpected situations.

Blue Origin has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct the 12th New Shepard launch no earlier than Nov. 1.

New Shepard consists of a reusable booster and capsule. The capsule lands by parachute while the booster touches down using landing legs.

Blue Origin has recovered the capsules and boosters on 10 of the 11 flights. On one flight, the booster crashed while the capsule landed safely.

The company has not announced when it will begin to sell tickets and what price it will charge. Tickets aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which expects to begin commercial suborbital flights next year, cost $250,000. Virgin Founder Richard Branson plans to be aboard the first commercial flight.