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SpaceX’s Starlink approved to launch almost 12,000 satellites

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Elon Musk has finally received the full “go ahead” for Starlink, his network of IP-less internet satellites. The FCC gave its approval for Musk’s plan on Thursday, allowing SpaceX to deliver high-speed internet on the cheap from space.

Musk pitched the idea back in 2016 and, in March, was approved to launch 4,425 satellites into orbit. The FCC has now agreed to an additional 7,000, completing his network of nearly 12,000 satellites.

Starlink aims to revolutionize satellite internet, which has a reputation for being costly and slow due to the high distances the satellites usually orbit at. By creating a network of thousands of low-orbiting satellites, Starlink hopes to provide competitive internet access to everyone, even those in developing and rural areas.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a fan of the idea, saying he’s “excited to see what these services might promise,” and that their “approach to these applications reflects this commission’s fundamental approach to encourage the private sector to invest and to innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers.”

The FCC also approved the satellites of three other companies: Kepler, Telesat and Leosat. This has put a competitive edge on the race for space-internet. Just last month, Musk fired and replaced a handful of his senior managers, hoping the shake-up would increase the project’s speed.

His ideal goal is to launch the first batch during the first half of 2019, but the company has stated it will likely take over 6 years to complete the network in its entirety. Still an impressive timeline for over 11,000 satellites.

The numbers involved with this little project of Musk’s has raised some concerns over space debris. There are currently over 4,000 satellites orbiting the earth at the moment, (most of them deactivated) and Starlink will almost quadruple that number.

The FCC has proposed a plan that could change the way we dispose of our satellites. This is great because, right now, our clean-up system is pretty much “leave them there”, sort of like an empty mug on your bedside table. Except, unlike an empty mug, space debris moves at tens of thousands of kilometres per hour at a low orbit above our earth, and there are potentially more catastrophic consequences if you bump into it.

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