SpaceX has filed paperwork with the International Telecommunication Union to add up to 30,000 Starlink broadband data satellites to the 12,000 it’s already been cleared to put in orbit.
The filings reflect SpaceX’s bullishness on the prospects for expanding high-speed internet access to the billions of people around the world who are currently underserved — and its determination to stay ahead of competitors who have their own plans to launch thousands more broadband satellites.
SpaceX’s requests came to light in the form of 20 coordination requests passed along to the ITU on Oct. 7 by the Federal Communications Commission, with 1,525 orbital planes specified in each request. Such requests generally come in the early stages of the regulatory process, with follow-up action taken by the ITU and the FCC.
The filings set off a seven-year countdown for getting clearances and launching the specified satellites, and then operating them for at least 90 days. SpaceX wouldn’t be required to launch all 30,000 satellites, but laying out its plan now could give it a regulatory advantage if other satellite operators were to go after the same orbital slots and frequencies.