After Starlink, Boeing is also launching into satellite constellations

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just given its agreement to Boeing for the company to send 147 satellites into orbit. Excellent news for the manufacturer, who has just experienced several setbacks concerning his quest for space with his Starliner manned capsule.

With this constellation of satellites, the US aerospace giant says they “will provide high-speed, high-speed communications to consumers wherever they are, while also providing the benefits of ultra-low latency through communications. LEO ”. A proposal that recalls another, that of SpaceX with the Starlink project.

Indeed, making the Internet pass through space to flood the entire Earth with satellites is not a new idea. Many companies are on the move, including Blue Origin with its Kuiper project, which will be entitled to its first launch next year.

OneWeb has also long been the figurehead of this idea, developed at the start of the decade. Losing speed in recent years, the project is collapsing on itself. But, as often when it comes to space, it is SpaceX that stands out as the undisputed and undisputed leader in the field.

SpaceX the space leader: for how long?

Indeed, the firm of Elon Musk has already sent hundreds of satellites over our heads, offering a connection offer still unparalleled in this emerging market. With its constellation, SpaceX reigns supreme for the moment, and the Texan company intends to remain the only one to dominate the skies.

So when Boeing presented its project to the FCC in 2017, the Texan firm tackled a technical detail to derail the program of its future opponent.

Indeed, if we look in detail, Boeing plans to launch satellites in two different orbits, the first, very classic for a constellation of this type, will be located 1000 kilometers above the Earth. This will be the case for the vast majority of Boeing satellites (132 out of 147 to be precise).

But the 15 other Boeing satellites will be placed in a very different orbit, much more inclined, ranging from 27,000 to 44,000 kilometers above our heads. And it is against these 15 satellites that SpaceX has concentrated its attack.

The Texan firm accuses them of using a bandwidth too close to Starlink’s satellites, which could create interference. The company founded by Elon Musk even offered a solution to Boeing: use antennas with a higher gain and thus minimize the risk of interference between the two constellations.

SpaceX Starlink

A piece of the Starlink constellation as it passes over Earth © SpaceX

SpaceX must learn to coexist with Boeing

While this may seem like a wise claim on the part of SpaceX, it is important to note that the antenna change will in fact cost Boeing dearly, and thus significantly delay the establishment of this constellation. This would give SpaceX a little more time to perfect its model and establish its domination in this market. A request that was therefore not as candid as what Elon Musk wanted to believe.

But despite the risks of interference, which are very real it must also be recognized, SpaceX was rejected its request by the FCC which ruled in favor of Boeing.

The commission explains in fact that the risk of interference will force the companies present in the space to coexist and cooperate so as not to annihilate each other. A previous decision had already been taken in this direction by the FCC and it served as a basis to support the argument used today by the commission in charge of communications in favor of Boeing.

So the idea is that everyone works intelligently so as not to destroy each other. A decision full of wisdom, but perhaps a bit utopian.


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