Over the past few years, SpaceX has been working on its Starlink project, the goal of which is to launch thousands of low-orbit satellites that will provide high-speed Internet access to people around the world. In February, the company put into orbit two prototype satellites, which were used to test the technology before fully deploying the satellite constellation. But despite the fact that these satellites were supposed to move to a higher orbit than they were initially located, they did not move. It seems, SpaceX slightly revised its plans.
As reported by The Verge, SpaceX asked the FCC to launch 1584 satellites to an altitude of 550 kilometers, although initially it was planned to enter the 1100-kilometer orbit. The SpaceX proposal claims that a lower orbit will help the company reduce the number of satellites needed for the sweep, and more importantly, help with the removal of satellites after they stop functioning. Although SpaceX plans to actively bring all satellites out of orbit, when the time comes, if the satellite fails and SpaceX cannot bring it out of orbit as planned, a lower orbit will help in this matter. In a lower orbit, natural effects — gravity and particles in the atmosphere — help the satellite descend over time. At an altitude of 550 kilometers, the satellite will go out of orbit independently within five years, if not faster.
Space junk problem
Of particular concern to SpaceX is space junk, as SpaceX ultimately plans to launch 12,000 satellites into the Starlink project. 1584 satellites in this matter are only part of the 4425 satellites that the FCC allowed to launch at the beginning of this year.
In a new application for the FCC, SpaceX says that its two test satellites have demonstrated the advantages of operating at a lower altitude. But the FCC still needs to approve revised plans.