FCC defends Starlink approval as Viasat, Dish urge court to block SpaceX license

A Starlink satellite dish sitting next to a lake in a remote area.

Enlarge / A Starlink satellite dish. (credit: SpaceX)

The Federal Communications Commission this week urged a court to back the FCC’s approval of SpaceX Starlink satellite launches against a lawsuit filed by Viasat and Dish.

With oral arguments scheduled for December 3, final briefs were filed on Tuesday by the FCC, Viasat, Dish, and SpaceX. Judges at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit previously rejected Viasat’s motion for a stay that would have halted SpaceX’s ongoing launches of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites pending the resolution of the lawsuit. Judges found that Viasat failed to show that it is likely to win its case alleging that the FCC improperly approved the satellite launches. Judges said at the time that Viasat did not meet “the stringent requirements for a stay pending court review” but granted a motion to expedite the appeal.

The FCC said in its new brief that the “commission reasonably granted SpaceX’s request to modify the orbital altitude of 2,824 of its Starlink satellites, which the commission concluded would serve the public interest by improving broadband access in underserved areas and reducing the potential to generate orbital debris. Neither Dish’s arguments regarding the potential for interference nor the criticisms by Viasat and the Balance Group of the commission’s review of environmental issues have merit.” (The Balance Group was apparently founded last year and said in a court document that it “is a membership organization that represents… astronomers and other scientists concerned about light pollution and other environmental impacts of satellite constellations.”)

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