Telesat joins OneWeb in getting FCC approval to move forward with their non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) constellation. OneWeb had been granted access on June 22, 2017.
Dan Goldberg, President and CEO of Telesat said in a press release on the FCC news, “the FCC’s grant of Telesat’s application for U.S. market access is an important milestone in our plan to deploy an advanced, high capacity, low latency LEO constellation. Telesat applauds the FCC’s ruling, which will bring manifold benefits to the U.S. market including improved access to the Internet as well as the potential to enhance opportunities for U.S. workers and consumers, U.S. industry and the U.S. technology base. Next generation LEO satellite constellations have great promise for erasing the digital divide and Telesat encourages the FCC, as it reviews its spectrum allocation policies, to ensure that satellite operators have sufficient access to the spectrum necessary to deliver on that promise.”
The Competitors and Conditions
The ruling did come with certain conditions and were influenced in part by comments by competitors including OneWeb, SES, O3b, Spire, SpaceX and others.
One of those conditions will force spectrum sharing requirements as outlined in FCC rules. Telesat had hoped that the FCC would follow ITU Radio Regulations “which require certain coordination procedures among NGSO operators.” The FCC had denied Telesat’s petition on this matter on Sept. 27, 2017.
One condition that OneWeb had hoped to impose on Telesat and others was a 125 km altitude buffer zone between constellations. The FCC said that this could be “interpreted to request a buffer zone that spans altitudes between 1015 and 1385 kilometers,” thus seemingly denying Telesat and others from operating within that boundary.
The FCC declined this condition saying in part;
“Furthermore, as both the OneWeb and Telesat systems are authorized by other administrations, we decline at this stage to specify a solution to an issue for which those administrations will bear primary responsibility. Telesat will be subject to the same condition requirements as OneWeb, including coordination of its physical operations with space stations of NGSO systems operating at similar orbital altitudes. To the extent that Telesat and other NGSO operators fail to come to an agreement regarding physical coordination, the Commission may intervene as appropriate.”
Another area of contention is Telesat’s debris mitigation plan. Both OneWeb and Spire took issue with Telesat’s plans. Telesat argued that its debris mitigation plan was a preliminary assessment and was pending the final constellation design.
The FCC ruled that “we condition grant of the Telesat Petition on Telesat presenting and the Commission granting a modification of this market access grant to include a final orbital debris mitigation plan.”
Telesat had requested several waivers related to the U.S. Table of Frequency Allocations. The FCC granted waivers for the 17.8-18.6 GHz and 19.7-20.2 GHz bands. Specifically the FCC granted these waivers;
“Waiver of the United States Table of Frequency Allocations, 47 CFR § 2.106, IS GRANTED. Communications in the 17.8-18.6 GHz (space-to-Earth) frequency band are on a non-conforming basis. Such communications are on an unprotected basis and operations must immediately terminate upon notification of harmful interference. This waiver terminates upon the effective date of changes made to the U.S. Table of Frequency Allocations adopted in FCC 17-122, which permit communications in the 17.8-18.6 GHz frequency band with non-Federal NGSO FSS systems on a secondary basis. In addition, such communications must comport with the applicable power flux-density limits in Article 21 of the ITU Radio Regulations and 47 CFR § 25.208(c), and equivalent power flux-density requirements in Article 22 of the ITU Radio Regulations.”
“Waiver of the Commission’s Ka-band Plan, IS GRANTED. Communications in the 19.7-20.2 GHz (space-to-Earth) frequency band are on a non-conforming basis. Such communications are on an unprotected basis and operations must immediately terminate upon notification of harmful interference. This waiver terminates upon the effective date of changes made to the Commission’s Ka-band Plan adopted in FCC 17-122, which permit communications in the 19.7- 20.2 GHz frequency band with NGSO FSS systems on an unprotected basis and on a secondary basis to GSO FSS operations. In addition, such communications must comport with the applicable EPFD limits and requirements in Article 22 of the ITU Radio Regulations.”
The FCC imposed a deadline of November 3, 2023 on Telesat to have their satellites in their assigned orbits and operational.
Two prototype satellites for the constellation are scheduled to launch before the end of this year. Telesat has stated it expects its constellation to be operational by 2021.
Related: You can listen to SpaceQ’s recent interview with Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg below.