SpaceX recently requested the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the company to deploy its Starlink satellites at a lower orbit. According to the company, this could reduce the growing number of space junk outside Earth in the future.
Starlink is SpaceX's ambitious project to establish an artificial satellite constellation in space. The main goal of the project is to deliver high-speed space-based internet to different parts of the globe.
SpaceX's Request To The FCC
Currently, SpaceX has about 360 satellites in low-Earth orbit. On Wednesday, April 22, the company will launch another 60 Starlink units into space. Before the launch, the company submitted a request to the FCC regarding the orbital altitude of its satellites. According to SpaceNews.com, SpaceX is seeking the government agency's approval to allow the company to operate its satellites from a much lower orbit.
Lowering Starlink's Operational Altitude
SpaceX originally planned to deploy its Starlink satellites from an altitude of around 1,150 kilometres from Earth. Through a request filed by the company to the FCC in April last year, the agency allowed the company to operate about 1,600 of its satellites from a lower altitude of only 550 kilometres.
On Friday (April 17), SpaceX filed another request to the FCC asking the agency to provide the same approval to an additional 2,800 satellites, bringing the total to 4,400. These satellites are the first generation Starlink units that were launched and currently being deployed by SpaceX. Similar to its request last year, SpaceX is asking the FCC to allow it to lower the operational altitude of the 2,800 satellites to about 550 kilometres.
SpaceX's Effort To Reduce Space Debris
As explained by the company, lowering the orbit altitude of the satellites has nothing to do with their effectiveness. Instead, SpaceX wants to deploy satellites at lower altitudes in order to prevent the buildup of space debris hovering outside Earth.
According to the company, dead satellites orbiting the planet from an altitude below 650 kilometres are more susceptible to Earth's gravitational pull. Instead of remaining in orbit, these dead satellites will be pulled back into Earth within a period of about 25 years.