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ACMA lists SpaceX, Kepler, Swarm in schedule of approved satellite operators

Max Blenkin

SpaceX has moved a step closer to providing its Starlink satellite broadband service to Australian consumers, after the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) added it to a list of those allowed to operate over Australian airspace.

ACMA lists SpaceX, Kepler, Swarm in schedule of approved satellite operators
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Also listed was Canadian company Kepler Communications and US firm Swarm Technologies, with both also proposing constellations of small communications satellites in low-Earth orbit.

Inclusion of these companies in Schedule 1 of the Radiocommunications (Foreign Space Objects) Amendment Determination will allow them to begin the process of seeking full regulatory approval to operate in Australia.

That includes approval to use radio frequency spectrum.

The SpaceX Starlink isn’t yet operational, though it is already the world’s largest constellation with 242 satellites in orbit, launched in four batches of 60 plus some prototypes.

SpaceX found Elon Musk’s vision is for a constellation of as many as 12,000 satellites, providing low-cost global broadband services. He said last year that Starlink would be economically viable with 1,000 satellites, with additional satellites to meet customer demand.

To populate its constellation, SpaceX proposes to launch batches of 60 satellites twice every month for the rest of this year.

SpaceX remains the big player – Kepler and Swarm are proposing smaller constellations, as are other companies yet to seek ACMA approval, among them Australian firm Sky and Space Global (SAS).

In its submission to ACMA, SpaceX said its inclusion on the schedule would allow it to begin the process of seeking regulatory approval to operate in Australia, including obtaining the required space apparatus licence.

The proposed new satellite operators weren’t wholly welcomed by one existing operator.

In a submission to ACMA, subscription television service provider Foxtel, owned by News Corp, said it had very high levels of concern about the newcomers potentially interfering with its services if they were allowed to use the Ku frequency band.

“Given the potential catastrophic business impact of interference, the need to protect existing systems from these new constellations must be a priority for the ACMA going forward,” it said.

South Australian internet of things connectivity firm Myriota also expressed concern about potential spectrum conflicts.

“Myriota will require frequency co-ordination with any foreign operators who intend to operate in Australia using spectrum with frequency overlap of our existing ACMA licences,” it said.

The Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA) said in general it supported initiatives that would assist the growth of the Australian space industry, including provision of space-based services in Australia by both Australian and foreign satellite operators.

“The SIAA recognises that the availability of radiofrequency spectrum for the control of space objects and provision of space-based services is a necessary and critical element for the growth of the Australian space industry,” said SIAA chairman Rod Drury.

“The SIAA notes that it is essential for the ACMA to protect and enhance access to radio frequency spectrum for a wide range of satellite operators in order to ensure the continued growth of the Australian space industry.”

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