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FCC approves SpaceX's satellite modification despite competitor objections

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, earlier this month. File  Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, earlier this month. File  Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

April 27 (UPI) -- The Federal Communications Commission approved Tuesday SpaceX's satellite modification plan despite objections from competitors, who complained it would disrupt networks.

SpaceX made the proposal a year ago, asking to modify its plan for Starlink satellites designed to deliver high-speed Internet to consumers across the globe.

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The Starlink license modification plan was to change the altitude of the next 2,814 satellites to 570 km after the first 1,584 satellites were in orbit at an altitude above 1,100 km. The company said the changes were in the public interest and addressed space safety.

The plan came under fire in complaints from Kuiper, a subsidiary of Amazon that plans to build satellite Internet service to rival Starlink, and global satellite competitor Viasat, among others. They said the public interest benefits were unsubstantiated and the plan would interfere with other satellite systems.

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The dispute became public earlier this year when SpaceX Chief Designer Elon Musk alleged in a tweet the competition was attempting "to hamstring Starlink," in response to a CNBC report.

The FCC wrote in the order that the "modification does not create significant interference problems that would warrant treatment of SpaceX's system as if it were filed in a later processing round."

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"We conclude that grant of the SpaceX Third Modification Application will serve the public interest," the FCC also wrote in the order. "Our action will allow SpaceX to implement safety-focused changes to the deployment of its satellite constellation to deliver broadband service throughout the United States, including to those who live in areas underserved or unserved by terrestrial systems."

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The FCC order requires SpaceX to issue reports twice a year that include conjunction events or near misses with other satellites within the last six months.

Despite its objections, Amazon called the FCC's ruling "a positive outcome," in a statement to CNBC since it "places clear conditions on SpaceX."

"These conditions address our primary concerns regarding space safety and interference, and we appreciate the Commission's work to maintain a safe and competitive environment in low earth orbit," Amazon added.

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