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SpaceX Wants to Launch 12,000 Satellites

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
March 3, 2017
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Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has filed a new application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for approval to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites to provide communications in the little used V band.

The system is in addition to  another constellations of 4,425 satellites (plus orbital spares) SpaceX proposed in November that would operate in the Ku and Ka bands. In total, the two constellations would have 11,943 spacecraft plus spares.

“When combined into a single, coordinated system, these ‘LEO’ and ‘VLEO’ constellations will enable SpaceX to provide robust broadband services on a full and continuous global basis,” SpaceX said in its application.

Competitor OneWeb has submitted a new application that would add an additional 2,000 satellites capable of operating in the V-band to its planned constellation of 720 satellites.

OneWeb’s initial LEO constellation would provide global satellite Internet using the Ka- and Ku-bands. A second constellation of 720 LEO satellites would be enhanced with a V-band payload.

OneWeb also has applied to launch 1,280 satellites into medium Earth orbit (MEO) of altitude 8,500 km.

The SpaceX and OneWeb applications to meet a March 1 deadline for plans to use the V-band. The deadline was set in response to a proposal filed in November by Boeing for a constellation of 2,956 V-band satellites.

Three other companies also filed proposals for V-band constellations. Telesat Canada proposed building 117 satellites plus spares to operate with this band. The spacecraft would be based on Ka-band constellation the company proposed in November.

O3b has applied to operate 24 satellites in the V-band. In November, the company applied for a license to operate 60 spacecraft in the Ka-band.

Theia Holdings also filed an application on March 1 to add V-band communications to its planned constellation of 112 Ka-band satellites. The constellation will form a integrated Earth observation and communications network.

The table below shows applications before the FCC. The number of satellites totals 18,470.

SpaceX Hawthorne, CA 7,518 V
Global broadband
SpaceX Hawthorne, CA 4,425 Ka, Ku Global broadband
Boeing Seattle, WA 2,956 V Advanced communications, Internet-based services
Arlington, VA 1,280 Ka, Ku, V
MEO Global broadband
OneWeb Arlington, VA 720 Ka, Ku
First Generation LEO Global broadband
OneWeb Arlington, VA 720 Ka, Ku, V
Second Generation LEO Global broadband
Kepler Communications Toronto, ONT 140 Ku Machine-to-machine communications (Internet of Things)
Telesat Canada Ottawa, ONT 117 Ka Wide band and narrow band communications services
Telesat Canada Ottawa, ONT 117 V Wide band and narrow band communications services
Theia Holdings A, Inc. Philadelphia, PA 112 Ka, V
Integrated Earth observation and communications network
Spire Global San Francisco, CA 100 AIS, ASM, GNSS Maritime monitoring, meteorological monitoring, and earth imaging services
LeoSat MA Pompano Beach, FL 80 Ka Broadband services
Boeing Seattle, WA 60 Ka Very high speed connectivity for end-user earth stations
O3b Washington, DC 60 Ka Broadband services
O3b Washington, DC 24 V Broadband services
ViaSat Carlsbad, CA 24 Ka, V Broadband services
Karousel LLC Alexandria, VA 12 Ka Communications
Audacy Communications Walnut, CA 3 K, V Data relay constellation providing satellite operators with seamless access to NGSO satellites
Space Norway AS Oslo, Norway 2 Ka, Ku Arctic broadband