Elon Musk set to ‘monopolise’ space after getting green light from US regulator

Elon Musk has been given the green-light for the "de-facto monopolisation" of space, a rival has claimed.

The SpaceX chief is set to launch thousands of satellites into low Earth orbit as part of its Starlink constellation project.

Rivals including Amazon are furious after SpaceX was recently given permission by the US to provide broadband from space and allow its satellites to be lower in orbit, Yahoo News reports.

Regulator Federal Communications Commission gave SpaceX the green-light for some 2,800 satellites set to blanket poorly connected areas with internet.

But rivals claim the lower altitude could increase risk of space collisions and heightened radio interference.

Arianespace boss Stephane Israel said: "We want space to remain accessible for human activities… but we refuse a Wild West space. It really is our responsibility to ensure that low orbit (less than 1,000 kilometres or 625 miles) above the Earth is sustainable long-term."

He made the comments during a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on sustainable space development goals.

Israel noted that of more than 9,000 satellites sent into orbit since 1957, adding: "SpaceX has already deployed 1,677 satellites for Starlink, which means that today, of all satellites in operation, 35 percent belong to one man – Elon Musk.

"And if you include satellites of more than 50 kilogrammes, that's more than 50 percent."

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He added that recent years had seen several collisions, at least two of them involving Starlink satellites.

Israel warned that "very quickly, we could find ourselves in a catastrophic scenario that would render this orbit impractical."

He said there was also "a risk of de-facto monopolisation" for Starlink as one of the first firms to set up such a satellite network.

And suggested that was "rather what our competitor is banking on" by securing the FCC's green light.

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The FCC judged in April that deployment at a lower altitude than the 540 to 570 kilometres initially proposed "will improve the experience for users of the SpaceX service, including in often-underserved polar regions".

It would also enable the satellites to be more speedily removed from orbit which would have "beneficial effects" in terms of reducing space debris, the authority found.

In all, SpaceX has requested FCC authorisation for up to 42,000 satellites.

That has put pressure on Arianespace, a joint venture between Airbus and French multinational Safran, to ramp up its own competitiveness for launches.

Fortune Business Insights estimates the global market's value at almost $13 billion in 2019, rising to $26 billion by 2027.

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