SpaceX launches first of its broadband internet satellites

Cesar Mills
February 24, 2018

The head of the FCC, America's comms watchdog, Ajit Pai has given his blessing to the network, and has said he wants SpaceX's plans approved.

The company is slated to launch a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 6:17 a.m. local time on Wednesday.

If adopted, it would be the first approval given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-earth orbit satellite technologies.

According to FCC documents made public this month, the organization in November 2017 gave SpaceX permission to launch the two experimental spacecraft, called Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, to test its space-based internet concept.

In past missions these have fallen back to Earth and sunk, but Musk said at the Falcon Heavy launch that he wanted to get a system in place to reuse them.

The Falcon 9 rocket in Thursday's mission was previously used in an August launch, then successfully recovered for use in future missions. (SpaceX) While the LEO Constellation will provide high-speed broadband service around the world, the VLEO Constellation is expected to enhance capacity by being able to focus on a narrower area.

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Elon Musk's SpaceX sent a Spanish military satellite into orbit on 22 February in a day late liftoff from California, extending the private space company's record of successful launches.

Teams have a two-hour window to launch the rocket, which will carry a 12,000-pound commercial communications satellite created to provide television, broadband and other communications to the Americas and Europe. On February 21, the Falcon 9 will deploy SpaceX's own set of Starlink satellites, Microsat 1a and 1b that aims to provide low-cost internet globally.

Musk and SpaceX have said little about their plan since announcing it in 2015. It has a specially-designed ship named Mr. Steven engineered to catch the 4-story-tall rocket part with a net stretched over four giant claw-like arms.

"Going to try to catch the giant fairing (nosecone) of Falcon 9 as it falls back from space at about eight times the speed of sound", Musk wrote in a tweet. The company has been partly successful during testing with Falcon 9's standard fairing, being able to bring part of the fairing back to the shore after a controlled landing at sea during the SES-10 launch past year in April.

The clamshell-like fairing halves missed the recovery ship by a few hundred meters, according to Musk, but landed in the ocean intact. He even added that Mr. Steven could be used to catch more than just the fairing.

Other reports by GizPress

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