Lead designer at SpaceX Elon Musk is one step closer to building his internet network constellation in space.
According to the Washington Post, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently allowed Musk to use an expanded range of wireless airwaves for his network constellation. The federal decision is helping pave the way for SpaceX to build the network, which, once fully built, will consist of 12,000 satellites. The satellite will surround the globe, and is anticipated to provide users with cheaper wireless internet access.
Proponents of this constellation and other satellite internet technology anticipate Musk’s solution to be quite beneficial for users. The technology “[could help] developing countries and rural areas connect to economic opportunities currently out of reach for them because they lack competitive Internet access,” the Washington Post says.
SpaceX isn’t the only company looking to provide better internet access to users. The Washington Post says that the FCC approved satellites from three other companies, too: Kepler, Telesat, and Leosat. However, with more companies racing to be the first to construct network constellations, policymakers are growing more worried about damage to these solutions in space, especially from free-flying debris. For example, “NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine has repeatedly warned of the ‘growing threat’ posed by orbital debris, and the U.S. military now tracks more than 500,000 individual pieces of flying space junk,” the Washington Post reports.
As a result, the FCC has proposed additional rules to the satellite industry that will help keep the amount of orbital debris down. The proposal also considers the possibility of making structural changes to the constellation, and “improvements” to the way companies get rid of outdated satellite technology.
Without the proposed rules, even the smallest piece of debris can cause mass destruction to the network constellation.
“My favorite example is an innocuous little screwdriver that slipped through an astronaut’s grasp and has been circling low Earth orbit at up to 21,600 miles per hour for the last 35 years,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel told the Washington Post. “At these speeds, even a common household item can wreak havoc.”