Apr 27, 2021 - Technology

FCC green-lights SpaceX satellite plans

Photo of the SpaceX Starlink satellites being deployed in Earth orbit

SpaceX Starlink satellites being deployed in Earth orbit. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX scored a regulatory victory at the Federal Communications Commission Tuesday, overcoming opposition from Amazon and other satellite companies on a key change to its plans for a satellite network that will beam internet access across the globe.

Why it matters: SpaceX needed FCC approval to move forward with its plan to provide internet access in hard-to-reach areas.

What's happening: SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to lower the orbit of its future Starlink satellites.

  • Amazon — which plans to launch its competing Project Kuiper satellite network — objected, arguing that the SpaceX change would interfere with its plans.
  • But the FCC unanimously sided with SpaceX, saying it doesn't believe the company's plans will cause significant interference.
  • "Based on our review, we agree with SpaceX that the modification will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in often-underserved polar regions," the FCC said in the order.

What they're saying: Amazon described the FCC's decision as a "positive outcome" because of conditions the agency imposed on SpaceX, including accepting additional interference.

  • "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," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement.

Between the lines, from Axios' Miriam Kramer: This victory further cements SpaceX as the leader among companies attempting to build mega-constellations of internet-beaming satellites. Whether any others will be able to catch up remains to be seen.

Go deeper: The billionaires' brawl over satellite broadband

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Amazon's statement.

Go deeper