FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the constellations that advanced today are evidence of a major shift in space activities, since the number of approved satellites almost equals the 8,126 objects that have been launched into space since Sputnik in 1957. The list includes 140 satellites for Kepler, 117 for Telesat and 78 for LeoSat.
Alan Musk's company Space-X will install 12,000 satellites in the orbit of the Earth in the next nine years.
SpaceX "proposes to add a very-low Earth orbit (VLEO) NGSO [non-geostationary satellite orbit] constellation, consisting of 7,518 satellites operating at altitudes from 335km to 346km", the FCC said in the of the order that it approved unanimously today.
The FCC said approval to the four companies on Thursday will enhance competition among existing and future FSS satellite systems. This forms part of Elon Musk's ambition to provide broadband internet access to the world. In theory, they could provide speeds and latency similar to fiber optic cable.
"From providing high-speed broadband services in remote areas to offering global connectivity to the Internet of Things through "routers in space" for data backhaul, I'm excited to see what services these proposed constellations have to offer".
"Our approach to these applications reflects this commission's fundamental approach to encourage the private sector to invest and to innovate and allow market forces to deliver value to American consumers".
The proposal considers whether changes to satellite designs are needed, as well as improvements in the way companies dispose of outdated satellites. This follows on from the agency allowing SpaceX in March 2018 to launch 4,425 satellites. However, the FCC turned down the request, citing that SpaceX has not provided sufficient grounds for the final implementation milestone requirement to be waived. One week later, the company did just that, sending the Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b Internet-beaming satellite prototypes into space alongside Spain's Paz Earth-observing satellite. The company is building its satellites in-house. "These satellites are smaller and less expensive to launch than the traditional geostationary satellites that have been going up since the 1960s", said Carr in a statement.
The FCC on Thursday sought to weigh in on the issue itself by unveiling a proposal - its first such effort in a decade - that could introduce more rules to the satellite industry created to limit orbital debris. "At these speeds, even a common household item can wreak havoc", said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. As described then, the first constellation would be positioned in a higher orbit, 714 miles above Earth, use different frequencies and initially comprise 4,425 satellites.