Earlier this week, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) clarified its position on a Starlink satellite internet constellation application filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Space Exploration Technologies, LLC (FCC).
At the moment, Starlink is engaged in a protracted legal battle to convince the Federal Communications Commission to allow the company to use SpaceX’s Starship next-generation launch vehicle systems to launch the satellites. Competitors of Starlink have reported a range of concerns to the Federal Communications Commission, and NASA has said that further analysis is necessary for the hundreds of satellites that Starlink wants to deploy in and around low Earth orbit (LEO).
NASA, in a fresh letter written earlier this month, briefly notes Starlink’s reply to its prior allegations but emphasizes that any words made by the space agency are not meant to deter the FCC from granting a license to the satellite operator. NASA has written to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressing the need to better comprehend large-scale satellite constellations such as Starlink.
The letter was sent on NASA’s behalf by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and it was very brief in comparison to the space agency’s prior engagement with the agency. Because of the high number of satellites that are expected to be sent into orbit, NASA had said in its first submission that it would be foolish for Starlink to assume that there was a “zero” possibility of collision and other mishaps in its constellation.
According to the paper, although Starlink’s satellite constellation may offer a safe environment inside it, the dangers would arise if other firms sent their own satellite constellations into orbit at the same time. As a result, NASA underlined the need of conducting a risk assessment and required that SpaceX share the results of its investigation with them.
Starlink’s reaction manifested itself in two ways. The first was inadvertent and appeared in the form of a news release on SpaceX’s website, which was later removed. This brought to light the many safety mechanisms that are built into Starlink satellites and are implemented across the constellation as a whole.
Secondly, a Federal Communications Commission filing stated that the company had collaborated with NASA to ensure that the latter’s operations were not jeopardized, that it had used NASA’s software to calculate collision probabilities, and that it had collaborated with NASA to share information for improving space safety, and that it would continue to collaborate with NASA to improve its services.
Following Starlink’s answer to the Federal Communications Commission, NASA sent a letter explaining the agency’s position on the subject of the second generation Starlink satellites. Additionally, it demonstrates the Federal Aviation Administration’s commitment to maintaining its collaboration with SpaceX in order to improve space safety.
It also says that its comments on the Starlink modification application for the new spacecraft are not in opposition to the application. This is possibly the most important allegation of all. Instead, they just want to ensure that NASA assets are protected and that the space community can continue to function in a safe manner.
According to the organization:
Rather than trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission to accept a license request, NASA’s technical comments are intended to guarantee that the Agency’s on-orbit mission assets are safeguarded by pointing out the hazards associated with large constellation proposals. It is the goal of NASA’s suggestions for additional inquiry to aid the space community in recognizing and minimizing adverse consequences on the space environment, securing the assets of all parties, and permitting commercial space activities in order to benefit all parties.
Starlink is currently up against a slew of competitors in the second generation satellite modification application, each of whom is concerned about the spacecraft for reasons that are unique to themselves. Some claim that the intended elevation angles are deceiving, while others claim that the constellation’s width would make it impossible for competitors to build economically viable satellite internet service.