SpaceX has filed paperwork to register a new Starlink Gen2 System, which upgrades older Starlink satellites. The new Starlink satellites will be heavier and capable of generating more power. In filing a new filing with the FCC, Starlink cited the potential demand for satellite broadband internet as one of the top reasons for the upgrade.
The upgraded satellites are needed to complement the capabilities that Starlink already has. Starlink is already approaching broadband speeds, especially when compared to competitors like ViaSat, according to tests conducted with Speedtest, a popular internet speed testing tool. SpaceX has already launched about 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit.
SpaceX claims that the preferred satellite configuration for the Starlink Gen2 System will include 29,988 satellites in orbit at an altitude of 340 to 614 km in a staggered pattern. Alternatively, 30,000 satellites can be used at altitudes ranging from 328 to 614 km. Such a relatively low altitude for Internet satellites will reduce latency and improve global coverage.
The company is now planning to launch several satellites into a sun-synchronous orbit to provide better coverage of polar regions such as Alaska and the far north of Canada.
SpaceX claims that the risk of satellites colliding with other objects in space is reduced thanks to an improved propulsion system that can operate independently of the rest of the satellite. Other Starlink satellites can already maneuver to avoid collisions, and the propulsion system could de-orbit malfunctioning satellites so that they burn up in the atmosphere.
“While the design of these protective elements is still being finalized, SpaceX has improved redundancy in power systems and propulsion systems,” SpaceX says of the Gen2 System’s ability to avoid any potential collisions in the future.