- Amazon wants to launch 3,236 beams online in an effort called Project Kuiper, which would compete directly with SpaceX’s growing fleet of SpaceX Starlink spacecraft.
- Despite fierce competition, Amazon managed to curb opposition from its competitors and win the approval of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to place Kuiper in space.
- SpaceX’s Starlink project appears to be years ahead of Amazon’s Kuiper, as it has already launched hundreds of satellites and launched a beta testing program for consumers.
- However, Amazon is committed to investing “more than $ 10 billion”; to realize Kuiper and Earth covered with affordable internet access.
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Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1995, just claimed a major victory by getting regulatory approval to create Kuiper, a planned fleet, or a planned constellation of 3,236 satellites that illuminate the Internet.
If realized, Kuiper would compete with Starlink, a similar but potentially much larger fleet of 12,000 to 42,000 satellites – many times the number of manned spacecraft ever launched – being formed by SpaceX, the company of airspace founded by Elon Musk.
On Wednesday, five FCC commissioners voted unanimously to allow Amazon to launch its Kuiper fleet into space and communicate with Earth-based antennas, giving the project the documents it needs to get off the ground.
“We conclude that outsourcing the Kuiper application would advance the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed service to consumers, government and high-speed businesses,” the FCC wrote in its order. released July 30th.
In a subsequent announcement from Amazon on Thursday, the company pledged to invest “more than $ 10 billion” in its effort to provide “reliable, affordable broadband service for insecure and undeserved communities” all the world”.
“A project of this scale requires considerable effort and resources, and, due to the nature of [low-Earth orbit] constellations, is not the kind of initiative that can start small. You have to commit, “Amazon said.
That amount, incidentally, is exactly what SpaceX COO Gwynne Shotwell estimated in May 2018 as cash it might take to complete Starlink.
A heated competition to dominate space-based internet
In his Starlink descriptions to reporters in May 2019, Elon Musk has said that SpaceX is trying to claim only 1-3% of a global telecommunications business of nearly trillions of dollars a year. He also said the project could open SpaceX between $ 30 billion to $ 50 billion a year – about 10 times more than it requires for rocket launches. (This has led some analysts to estimate the company above $ 100 billion.)
The same approach and capture in the market is likely to be true for Amazon, which has sparked heated regulatory battles with SpaceX and other companies, at one point even causing Musk to call Bezos a copycat. However, with the growing and lucrative divisions of Amazon digital entertainment, bringing a high-speed Internet to populated and remote areas is equally about expanding its customer base and ultimately.
However, like SpaceX, Amazon had to pass the FCC first.
The federal regulator is responsible for sharing the spectrum wirelessly and assigning permission to use certain frequencies for specific purposes – in the case of Kuiper, Starlink, OneWeb and other planned providers, locking Internet data in and out of space. America (and other parts of the world) high-speed, low-speed low-speed blankets. Amazon sought FCC permission in 2019, including the company in a heated competition with similar providers.
Now, with the FCC authorization, Amazon can launch its planned satellites, which will orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from about 367 miles (590 kilometers) to 391 miles (630 kilometers), a region called the orbit of low Earth (LEO) or even very low Earth orbit (VLEO). Such distances are more than 50 times closer than traditional Internet geostationary satellites, enabling them to transfer data into fiber-optic spaces.
The FCC order states that Amazon plans to launch Kuiper in five phases and that its non-existent internet service is expected to go online after 578 satellites.
How big those satellites will be, what they will look like, and which rockets or rockets will launch them into orbit, is still unclear. But Bezos in 2000 founded an aerospace company called Blue Origin, which is working – as SpaceX has successfully done – to develop reusable rockets. The next Blue Rocket planned heavy-launch rocket is called the New Glenn, and may have the potential to land dozens or hundreds of satellites at once.
SpaceX, for its part, looks potentially years ahead of Amazon, having deployed more than 500 Starlink satellites, built user terminals and ground stations, and even launched a private beta that could lead to the first public service later this year. .
The FCC order did not give everything Amazon wanted, but the company nevertheless stressed its importance by announcing its planned massive investment in the scheme.
“We’ve heard so many stories lately about people being unable to do their job or finish school because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Dave Limp, a senior vice president at Amazon who previously has developed its own Kindle product and is now overseeing the Kuiper. “There are still many countries where broadband access is unreliable or non-existent. Kuiper will change that. Our $ 10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us we close this gap. “
In addition to its goals of serving customers online at home, schools, businesses, emergency response, medical institutions, Amazon said it also plans to “provide backhaul solutions for wireless carriers expanding LTE and 5G service to new regions” for bring trouble online – reach areas by other means.
Late last year, Amazon unveiled plans to open a giant plant to develop, test and build Kuiper satellites in Redmond, Washington.
The clock is ticking for Amazon to execute. The FCC requires 50% of its satellites to be operational by July 30, 2026, and the rest of its fleet to be launched before July 30, 2029, or the company may lose its license to operate the network.
The government decision only indirectly addressed the threat and growing impact of low satellite fleets on astronomy, and especially on radio astronomers. In its decision, the FCC noted avoiding such a disruption is not “a condition” for its authorization, but that Amazon “should be aware of these facts” and work with the National Science Foundation to facilitate problems.