To Improve Starlink Speeds, SpaceX Wants to Orbit Satellites Closer to Earth

By Michael Kan,
Published by PC Magazine, 21 February 2024

The company is requesting to orbit some second-generation Starlink satellites ‘in the 340 km-360 km range,’ according to an FCC filing.

To boost Starlink speeds, SpaceX is asking for regulatory clearance to orbit some satellites about 200 kilometers (124 miles) closer to the Earth. 

On Tuesday, the company filed a letter with the Federal Communications Commission about operating some second-generation Starlink satellites between 340-360 kilometers. If approved, the lower orbits promise to “improve space sustainability and enhance quality of service for consumers, enterprises, and first responders,” SpaceX wrote. 

(Credit: SpaceX)

“Moreover, operating at these lower altitudes will enable SpaceX to provide higher-quality, lower-latency satellite service for consumers, keeping pace with growing demand for real-time applications to support remote work, distance education, telehealth, and emergency response,” the company added. In December 2022, the FCC gave SpaceX clearance to operate 7,500 second-gen satellites along “525, 530, and 535km” altitudes—or within the same region as the first-gen satellites. Still, the company’s earlier plans also proposed operating some of the second-gen satellites at the 340-360km range.

(Credit: SpaceX/FCC)

The company is now pressing the FCC to open up the lower orbital shells to Starlink. “SpaceX is proud to report that its second-generation satellites have performed even better than expected, including during the launch and early orbit phase of their operations where atmospheric drag on the satellites is at a maximum,” it wrote in the letter. 

Along with the speed improvements, SpaceX says orbiting the satellites at lower altitudes further reduces the risk of potential collisions. At the same time, the lower orbits can make it easier to retire the satellites, which involves de-orbiting them and having them burn up in the atmosphere. 

The letter doesn’t specify the expected speed improvements. But SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has made reducing latency for Starlink to under 20 milliseconds one of his main goals.

See: Original Article