Look Out Elon! Here Comes Zuck: Facebook Working on Satellite Internet Program

Mark Zuckerberg (Credit: Anthony Quintano)

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is working on a satellite Internet project designed to provide broadband access around the globe, Wired reports.

The emails show that the social network wants to launch Athena, its very own internet satellite, in early 2019. The new device is designed to “efficiently provide broadband access to unserved and underserved areas throughout the world,” according to an application the social network appears to have filed with the FCC under the name PointView Tech LLC.

With the filing, Facebook joins Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Softbank-backed OneWeb, two well-funded organizations working on similar projects. In fact, SpaceX launched the first two of what it hopes will be thousands of its Starlink satellites just this past February.

The emails, which date back to July 2016, and subsequent confirmation from Facebook, confirm a story published in May by IEEE Spectrum, which used public records to speculate that Facebook had started a satellite internet project.

The new emails detail meetings between FCC officials and lawyers from a firm Facebook appears to have hired, which specializes in representing clients before government agencies. In one exchange from 2016, a lawyer from the firm requests to meet with FCC officials in the Office of Engineering & Technology and the International Bureau Satellite Division to discuss applying for an experimental license to construct and operate a “small LEO [low Earth orbit] satellite system with a limited duration mission.” The emails indicate that Facebook also set up subsequent meetings with the FCC in June and December of 2017.

SpaceX Applies for Permission to Land Falcon 9 Stage at Vandenberg

Falcon 9 first stage comes in for a landing after launching the Zuma payload. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for permission to land a Falcon 9 first stage at Vandenberg Air Force Base for the first time.

The request to the Federal Communications Commission for “special temporary authority” covers a six-month window from September 5, 2018 to March 5, 2019. SpaceX needs permission for communications between the landing site and the returning first-stage booster for the experimental operation.

All previous land recoveries have taken place at Cape Canaveral in Florida. SpaceX has recovered first stages from Vandenberg launches using offshore drone ships.

FCC Expands Market Access for SES O3b MEO Constellation

CC grant allows SES to super charge the O3b system, the only operational non-geostationary broadband constellation and the world’s first global multi-terabit satellite network

LUXEMBOURG, 8 June 2018 (SES PR) — SES announced today that it has been granted, by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), authorization to serve the U.S. market using a significantly expanded O3b fleet in the Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

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Audacy Receives FCC License for First Commercial Inter-satellite Data Relay Network


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., June 7, 2018 (Audacy PR)  – Audacy announced today that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted Audacy a license to operate the first commercial inter-satellite data relay network. Audacy will use the spectrum to provide real-time downlink, continuous monitoring, and always-on command services to customers’ LEO spacecraft.

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Proposed FCC Regulations Could Put CubeSats Out of Reach for Students

CubeSats (Credit: NASA)

Well, this doesn’t sound good.

In a move that threatens U.S. education in science, technology, engineering and math, and could have repercussions throughout the country’s aerospace industry, the FCC is proposing regulations that may license some educational satellite programs as commercial enterprises. That could force schools to pay a US$135,350 annual fee – plus a $30,000 application fee for the first year – to get the federal license required for a U.S. organization to operate satellite communications.

It would be a dramatic increase in costs. The most common type of small satellite used in education is the U.S.-developed CubeSat. Each is about 10 inches on a side and weighs 2 or 3 pounds. A working CubeSat that can take pictures of the Earth can be developed for only $5,000 in parts. They’re assembled by volunteer students and launched by NASA at no charge to the school or college. Currently, most missions pay under $100 to the FCC for an experimental license, as well as several hundred dollars to the International Telecommunications Union, which coordinates satellite positions and frequencies.

U.S. CubeSat programs have been a model for space education programs around the world. In our work in North Dakota, we’ve seen the power of satellites to excite and engage students. And we’re not alone. Hundreds of CubeSats have given students hands-on experience, even reaching elementary schools, to get younger students interested in, and connected to, engineering and space science. In my view, the FCC should protect all this by making clear what fees apply to school and university missions, and ensuring the cost is much lower than $135,350.

FCC: Satellite Companies Must Obtain Licenses Before Launch

Swarm SpaceBee satellite (Credit: ISRO)

In the wake of an unlicensed satellite launch by a Silicon Valley startup, the FCC has issued an advisory spelling out licensing requirements that company must comply with before launch.

“Compliance with requirements for licensing of satellite communications is not optional,” the commission said. “Failure to comply with FCC requirements can and will result in enforcement action.”

The FCC says that Swarm Technologies launched four SpaceBee prototype satellites aboard an Indian PSLV rocket in January despite the agency having previously rejected the company’s application for a license.

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FCC Approves SpaceX’s Application for 4,425-Satellite Broadband Constellation

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2018 (FCC PR) – The Federal Communications Commission approved an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technology in the United States and around the world. With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States.

This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies. SpaceX proposed a satellite system comprised of 4,425 satellites and was granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands to provide global Internet connectivity.

The Memorandum Opinion, Order and Authorization today outlines the conditions under which SpaceX is authorized to provide service using its proposed NGSO FSS satellite constellation. Specifically, the Order specifies the conditions to ensure compliance with Commission rules, and to protect other operations in the requested frequency bands.

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access, particularly in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

Silicon Valley Company Launched Satellites Without FCC Approval

SpaceBEE satellite (Credit: ISRO)

A Silicon Valley startup named Swarm Technologies has been accused of launching four tiny satellites into space without FCC approval. The four SpaceBEE satellites, which are about one quarter the size of a 1U CubeSat, were launched aboard an Indian PSLV booster in January. The satellites are testing Internet of Things technologies.

The only problem is, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had dismissed Swarm’s application for its experimental satellites a month earlier, on safety grounds. The FCC is responsible for regulating commercial satellites, including minimizing the chance of accidents in space. It feared that the four SpaceBees now orbiting the Earth would pose an unacceptable collision risk for other spacecraft.

If confirmed, this would be the first ever unauthorized launch of commercial satellites.

On Wednesday, the FCC sent Swarm a letter revoking its authorization for a follow-up mission with four more satellites, due to launch next month. A pending application for a large market trial of Swarm’s system with two Fortune 100 companies could also be in jeopardy.

In fact, the FCC told the startup that the agency would assess “the impact of the applicant’s apparent unauthorized launch and operation of four satellites… on its qualifications to be a Commission licensee.” If Swarm cannot convince the FCC otherwise, the startup could lose permission to build its revolutionary network before the wider world even knows the company exists.

Read the full story.

National Space Council Approves 4 Recommendations on Regulatory Reform

WASHINGTON, DC (White House PR) — Vice President Mike Pence will provide policy recommendations to the President to streamline the regulatory environment for commercial space companies. At the second National Space Council Meeting, the council agreed on the following four recommendations to reform the commercial space regulatory frameworks at the Departments of Transportation and Commerce:

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SpaceX to Launch Global Satellite Broadband Test Spacecraft on Wednesday

Falcon 9 lifts off from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Credit: SpaceX)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

SpaceX is set to launch two spacecraft next week that will demonstration technologies for providing fast global broadband services through a constellation of 12,000 satellites.

Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b spacecraft will hitch a ride aboard a Falcon 9 booster whose primary payload is the Paz synthetic aperture radar satellite. The launch has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:17 a.m. PST ( 9:17 a.m. EST; 1417 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Backs SpaceX’s Satellite Internet Plan

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON, February 14, 2018 (FCC PR) —Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai today proposed that the agency approve an application by Space Exploration Holdings, doing business as SpaceX, to provide broadband services using satellite technologies in the United States and on a global basis. Chairman Pai issued the following statement:

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies. SpaceX’s application—along with those of other satellite companies seeking licenses or access to the U.S. market for non-geostationary satellite orbit systems—involves one such innovation. Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. And it can offer more competition where terrestrial Internet access is already available.

“Following careful review of this application by our International Bureau’s excellent satellite engineering experts, I have asked my colleagues to join me in supporting this application and moving to unleash the power of satellite constellations to provide high-speed Internet to rural Americans. If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies.”

Background

Over the past year, the FCC has approved requests by OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to access the United States market to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country. These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit, fixed-satellite service systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests.

SES & Intelsat Propose Joint Use of U.S. C-band by Satellite & Terrestrial Mobile Operators

U.S.-specific proposal would protect C-band video and data transmissions and support accelerated 5G roll-out by mobile operators

Luxembourg/Washington, (SES/Intelsat PR) — Leading satellite companies SES S.A. (Euronext Paris and Luxembourg Stock Exchange: SESG) and Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I) today announced alignment on a proposal to the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which seeks to protect the wide array of established satellite services in the 3700-4200 MHz C-band downlink spectrum while opening a specified portion of that spectrum for terrestrial mobile use.

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Operation Zuma: SpaceX to Launch Mystery Payload

SpaceX launched its 12th resupply mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 12:31 p.m. EDT on Monday, Aug. 14, 2017. (Credit: NASA Television)

Federal regulatory filings indicate SpaceX plans to launch a mysterious payload as early as Nov. 10 in a previously-undisclosed mission.

It is unusual for such a mission to remain secret so close to launch, and there has been no public claim of ownership for the payload — codenamed Zuma — from any government or commercial institution.

SpaceX did not respond to questions on the mission Saturday, but an application submitted by the launch company to the Federal Communications Commission says the flight will use a Falcon 9 booster launched from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The existence of the mission was first reported on NASASpaceflight.com Saturday, but the FCC filings are public record….

Two filings concern the secretive launch next month, one for the Falcon 9’s liftoff and climb into orbit from Florida’s Space Coast, and another for the first stage booster’s planned return to Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for refurbishment and reuse.

SpaceX has successfully launched Falcon 9 a total of 15 times in 2017. Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule shows that SpaceX has five more flights scheduled for this year, not including the Zuma mission. Below is the schedule with the Zuma flight included.

Remaining SpaceX Launches for 2017

10/30/17: Falcon 9 — Koreasat 5A — KSC
11/10/17: Falcon 9 — Zuma — KSC
Late November: Falcon 9 — Iridum Next 31-40 — Vandenberg
11/28/17: Falcon 9 — CRS-13 — CCAFS
4th Quarter: Falcon 9 — Hispasat 30W-6 — CCAFS
Late 2017: Falcon Heavy Demo Flight — KSC

FCC Grants OneWeb U.S. Access

WASHINGTON, June 22, 2017 (FCC PR) – The Federal Communications Commission today approved a request by WorldVu Satellites Limited, which does business as OneWeb, to access the United States satellite market. Today’s action paves the way for OneWeb to provide broadband services using satellite technology that holds unique promise to expand Internet access in remote and rural areas across the country.

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AIA Policy Recommendations for Improving U.S. Space Competitiveness


Engine for Growth:
Analysis and Recommendations for U.S. Space Industry Competitiveness

Aerospace Industries Association
May 2017
[Full Report]

Policy Recommendations
for Strengthening U.S. Space Competitiveness

1. Level the Playing Field

Provide a responsive regulatory environment for commercial space activities. The list of commercial space activities is varied and growing, ranging from traditional applications such as satellite telecommunications to emerging ones like space resource utilization. At the same time, the U.S. space industry is governed by multiple federal agencies with disparate regulatory interests, including the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration and Departments of State and Commerce. These agencies often suffer from funding and staffi ng shortages, a situation that creates bottlenecks in licensing processes and slows responsiveness to technological and market changes. The new Administration should work closely with Congress to ensure that the appropriate space regulatory agencies are fully resourced and staffed.
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