- Amazon wants to launch 3,236 satellites trapping the network in an effort called Project Kuiper, which would compete directly with SpaceX’s growing Starlink fleet of spacecraft.
- Despite intense competition, Amazon managed to unsettle the opposition of its competitors and gain the approval of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to deploy Kuiper into space.
- SpaceX’s Starlink project appears to be many years ahead of Amazon’s Kuiper, having launched hundreds of satellites and launched a beta testing program for consumers.
- Still, Amazon has pledged to invest “more than $ 10 billion” to make Kuiper and cover the Earth with affordable web access.
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Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos in 1995, only claimed one major victory in gaining regulatory approval to create Kuiper, a planned fleet, or a constellation of 3,236 satellites traversing the Internet.
If realized, Kuiper would compete with Starlink, a similar, but potentially much larger, fleet of 12,000 to 42,000 satellites, often the number of spacecraft launched by humanity, formed by SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk.
On Wednesday, the five FCC commissioners voted unanimously to allow Amazon to launch its Kuiper fleet into space and communicate with ground antennas, giving the project the paperwork it needs to get off the ground.
“We conclude that granting Kuiper’s application would advance the public interest in authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service for consumers, government, and businesses,” the FCC wrote in the his order, published July 30th.
In a subsequent announcement by Amazon on Thursday, the company pledged to invest “more than $ 10 billion” in its effort to provide “reliable and affordable broadband service to underserved and underprivileged communities around the world.” “.
“A project of this scale requires significant efforts 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.
This amount is, incidentally, precisely what SpaceX COO, Gwynne Shotwell, estimated in May 2018, in cash it may take to complete Starlink.
An intense competition to dominate the internet based on space
In his Starlink descriptions to reporters in May 2019, Elon Musk has said that SpaceX is trying to claim only 1-3% of the global telecommunications business for about $ 1 trillion a year. He also said the project could clean up SpaceX between $ 30 billion to $ 50 billion a year, about 10 times what it takes to launch rockets. (This has led some analysts to value the company for more than $ 100 billion.)
The same market access and uptake is likely with Amazon, which sparked fierce regulatory battles with SpaceX and other companies, even at one point asked Musk to call Bezos a copy. However, with Amazon’s growing and lucrative digital entertainment divisions, bringing affordable high-speed Internet to populated and remote areas is equal to expanding its customer base and bottom line.
Like SpaceX, however, Amazon had to go through the FCC first.
The federal regulator is responsible for disclosing the wireless spectrum and assigning permission to use certain frequencies for specific purposes (in the case of Kuiper, Starlink, OneWeb and other intended providers, transferring web data to and from the blanket space in America (and other parts of the world) in high-speed, low-lag broadband Amazon applied for FCC permission in 2019, and involved the company in intense competition with similar suppliers.
Now, with permission from the FCC, Amazon can launch its planned satellites, which would orbit the planet at altitudes ranging from about 367 miles (590 kilometers) to 391 miles (630 kilometers), a region called orbit. of low earth (LEO) or even very low earth orbit (VLEO). These distances are more than 50 times closer than traditional geostationary internet satellites, allowing them to transfer data over fiber-optic spaces.
The FCC order states that Amazon plans to launch Kuiper in five phases and that its internet service is supposed to not yet exist after 578 satellites.
What size these satellites will be, what they will be like and what rockets or rockets will launch them into orbit is still unclear. But in 2000, Bezos founded an aerospace company called Blue Origin that works to develop reusable rockets, just as SpaceX has successfully done. Blue Origin’s next planned heavy rocket is called New Glenn and can have the potential to deploy dozens or hundreds of satellites at once.
SpaceX, meanwhile, looks potentially a few years ahead of Amazon, having deployed more than 500 Starlink satellites, built user terminals and earth stations, and even launched a private beta. which could lead to the first public service later this year.
The FCC’s order didn’t grant everything Amazon wanted, but the company stressed its importance by announcing its massive planned investment in the system.
“We’ve heard so many stories lately about people who can’t do their job or complete homework because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon, who previously developed his Kindle product and now is. supervising Kuiper. “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $ 10 million investment will create jobs and infrastructure in the United States that will help us close this gap”.
In addition to its goals of serving the Internet to home consumers, schools, businesses, emergency response, medical establishments, Amazon said it also plans to “provide back-up solutions for wireless operators that extend LTE and 5G services to new regions.” to bring the internet to life. – To reach areas by other means.
Late last year, Amazon unveiled plans to open a giant factory to develop, test and build Kuiper satellites in Redmond, Washington.
The watch dials to run Amazon. The FCC requires that 50% of its satellites be operational by July 30, 2026, and the rest of its fleet will be operational by July 30, 2029, or the company could lose its operating permit. The net.
The government’s decision was only aimed at the growing threat and impact of low-flying satellite fleets for astronomy, and especially for radio astronomers. In its decision, the FCC noted that avoiding this 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 alleviate the problems.