Federal authorities in the United States allow the SpaceX company to put the Earth into an 11,943 satellite constellation to expand the reach of high-speed internet connections in the next decade.
The SpaceX constellation multiplies several times the number of satellites currently circling around the Earth, excluding rival projects from other companies, including OneWeb, with 900 planned satellites.
Since the launch of Sputnik in 1957, more than 8,000 objects have been launched into space, where more than 4,800 are still in orbit, according to the United Nations Office for Outer Space. But according to US Army registration, less than 2,000 will still be active.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it had officially launched 7,518 satellites by SpaceX, which added 4,425 other objects that had been approved by the same company in March by the agency.
None of these satellites has been launched. SpaceX has six years to put half in orbit, and nine for total, according to FCC rules.
SpaceX wants to operate most of these constellations in very low orbits: between 335 and 356 km in height, which will allow very short communication times between satellites and internet users on Earth.
In a tweet in May, Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX, said that it was 25 milliseconds for two test satellites launched in February, enough for two fast video games, he said.
But low altitude is difficult to maintain and small satellites usually have a short life in a few years.
The FCC also authorized other companies to launch several hundred satellites: Kepler (140 satellites), Telesat (117 satellites) and LeoSat (78 satellites).