Boeing has decided to surrender its license for a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation project that would have competed with SpaceX’s Starlink network. The company formally relinquished its license and paid a forfeiture fine of $2.2 million to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Boeing’s license was originally granted in November 2021 but was revoked by the FCC on October 12.
Boeing remains committed to responsible spectrum allocation and space utilization, according to Michelle Parker, Vice President of Boeing Space Mission Systems. The company continuously reviews its spectrum usage to meet commercial and regulatory requirements. However, it is currently prioritizing immediate growth steps.
Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, acknowledged Boeing’s decision, stating that competing with SpaceX is difficult. SpaceX currently dominates the low Earth orbit satellite market, with over 4,900 operational units. Unlike Boeing, SpaceX has the advantage of launching its own satellites at a lower cost without relying on launch providers.
Boeing had initially expressed interest in establishing its presence in the satellite constellation industry. The company’s President of Boeing Commercial Satellite Systems, Ryan Reid, mentioned in an interview that Boeing aimed to pursue business-to-business partnerships for a non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) system, focusing on enterprise agreements rather than a direct-to-consumer model.
In September 2022, Boeing launched its Varuna prototype satellite as part of a shared mission aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This marked a key milestone in the development of Boeing’s satellite constellation. Boeing has decided not to pursue a Band V constellation immediately but will continue to invest in connectivity opportunities in space.
While Boeing’s ambitions for a mega-constellation have taken a step back, competitors such as Amazon’s Project Kuiper, OneWeb, Telesat, and Astra continue to actively pursue their satellite internet projects. This highlights the ongoing competition in the satellite internet market.