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It’s the FCC’s first-ever approval of “a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” according to a statement released Thursday.
Currently, satellite internet uses satellites launched 22,000 miles into space—which is why the connections can be super slow. But Musk wants to install SpaceX satellites lower than 1,000 miles into space. If they’re lower, they will have less coverage, hence the need for more than 4,000 of them.
It will probably be a long time before SpaceX boots up the internet service, Mashable reports, and SpaceX has only launched two demo satellites so far. But the idea is to increase internet access, particularly in rural areas and developing countries. With coverage from space, internet service providers can build towers that beam signals from SpaceX satellites instead of installing pricey broadband cables.
The satellite constellation could potentially pose a new problem: Space junk. As Mashable notes, launching thousands of satellites into that part of the ether could quickly get crowded and end up with collisions. But Musk seems determined to try.
Kris Seavers is the IRL editor for the Daily Dot. Her work has appeared in Central Texas publications, including Austin Monthly and San Antonio Magazine, and on NPR.