The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said on Tuesday it had voted to approve a SpaceX plan to deploy Starlink satellites at a lower earth orbit as part of the company’s push to offer space-based broadband internet service.
The decision includes a number of conditions to ensure the safety of the plan.
The approval order addresses some concerns raised by Amazon.com’s Kuiper Systems satellite project. FCC said SpaceX has agreed to accept interference from the Kuiper system “where operating SpaceX’s satellites at lower altitudes will potentially make SpaceX more susceptible to interference.”
Elon Musk’s SpaceX had asked the FCC for approval to fly 2,824 additional satellites at a lower orbit as part of its space-based broadband internet service plan.
The FCC said “SpaceX’s operations at lower altitudes and significant maneuverability should result in lower collision risk and an improved orbital debris environment.”
In July, Amazon said it would invest more than $10 billion to build a network of 3,236 low-earth orbit satellites that will provide high-speed broadband internet services to people around the world who lack such access.
Musk and Amazon have sparred publicly over the competing satellite plans.
SpaceX plans to eventually deploy 12,000 satellites. It has said previously the Starlink constellation will cost it roughly $10 billion.
SpaceX told the FCC the change in altitude will improve space safety, reduce power flux density emissions to improve the interference environment and lower “elevation angles to improve the customer experience.”
While extremely costly to deploy, satellite technology can provide high-speed internet for people who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach. The technology could also be a critical backstop when hurricanes or other natural disasters disrupt communication.