Main Engine Cut Off

SpaceX Submits 20 Filings to ITU for 30,000 More Satellites

Caleb Henry, for SpaceNews:

Filings trigger a seven-year deadline whereby the satellite operator, in this case SpaceX, must launch at least one satellite with its requested frequencies and operate it for 90 days. Once spectrum rights have been assigned through this “bring into use” procedure, other ventures must design their systems to avoid interference with the newly minted incumbent operator.

Tim Farrar, a telecom analyst critical of SpaceX, tweeted that he was doubtful the ITU will be able to review such big filings in a timely manner. He sees the 20 separate filings as a SpaceX effort to “drown the ITU in studies” while proceeding with its constellation.

I follow Farrar and often appreciate his perspective, but I would definitely say he ranges from cranky to cynical. He wrote a piece back in May that I reread and found it particular prescient given this recent ITU filing dust-up. In it he predicts the same aforementioned flood-the-ITU-and-fly-satellites strategy, as well as the big funding round that SpaceX raised following the first Starlink flight:

While other systems like Theia are required to receive ITU approval “prior to the initiation of service”, SpaceX has now been given permission to provide service over the Starlink system unless and until a final ITU finding is published. This appears to reflect the FCC’s view of SpaceX as a potential winner in the NGSO race and a desire to enable operations to begin as soon as possible. In addition, SpaceX appears to be receiving strong backing from other agencies within the US government for the capabilities that Starlink is expected to make available.

It appears that the launch will be accompanied by a publicity blitz to set the scene for a major fundraising effort immediately thereafter, with one feature of this PR campaign being SpaceX’s production line in Redmond, described to me as “more impressive” than OneWeb’s factory in Florida.

I’m not completely sure what to make of this new set of filings yet. The cynical end of the spectrum is Farrar’s opinion, and the optimistic end of the spectrum is SpaceX preparing for massive growth in Starlink services over the next decade.

I prefer being an optimist.