Below the ISS orbit: Starlink satellites will descend closer to Earth

SpaceX has submitted a request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch Starlink satellites into orbit, which is much closer to Earth. Elon Musk’s company refers to the fact that lowering the orbit will have advantages in performance and quality of service provision. 

Starlink satellite. Illustration: SpaceX

The company has submitted a request to put into orbit some next-generation Starlink satellites for mobile communications at a distance of 340 to 360 kilometers from Earth, which is 200 kilometers below the planned orbit. If approved, the company will be able to place satellites in orbit at a minimum altitude of 340 km and a standard altitude of 500 km.

This initiative was proposed after successful tests that showed that Starlink satellites could provide data transfer speeds of up to 17 Mbit/s to mobile phones with the Android operating system while in orbit at a distance of 360 km. 

SpaceX also notes that the operation of satellites in lower orbits requires additional costs. However, a low orbit will improve the stability of the system, reducing the risk of collisions and improving the quality of communication with less delay. 

At the same time, such a decision may become the subject of disputes from competitors and even NASA. In 2022, NASA expressed concern that Starlink satellites were orbiting below the International Space Station and posed a threat to its safety. SpaceX refutes such concerns, arguing that the proposed orbit will reduce possible conflicts with other satellite systems in the appropriate frequency ranges.

It is important to note that the next generation of the Starlink system includes mobile communication technology. Although the FCC has granted SpaceX permission to place mobile communications on all 7,500 next-generation satellites, the company is still awaiting final approval for commercial use of this technology for customers. 

Earlier, we reported on how SpaceX would burn 100 Starlink satellites in the Earth’s atmosphere.

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