The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved Amazon’s plans for the Kuiper project – the company plans to launch 3,236 satellites into low-Earth orbit to distribute Internet to Earth. The decision is an important regulatory step that will allow Amazon to start launching satellites when they are ready, the company says on its blog.
The company plans to send satellites to three different altitudes and says it only needs 578 satellites in orbit to begin service. Amazon said it will invest more than $ 10 billion in the Kuiper project.
The company has yet to announce which launch provider plans to use the satellites in orbit. As a reminder, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns the Blue Origin rocket company. It looks like the launch provider will have to compete with other companies to launch satellites. However, in June 2019, Bloomberg reported that Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin would not be involved in the project.
The company must launch half of the constellation by 2026 to maintain its FCC license, and then the rest of the satellites by 2029. Amazon is also due to submit to the FCC a final plan to reduce orbital debris. The fact is that the design of its satellites has not yet been completed.
Amazon claims it will de-orbit its satellites within 355 days, but the FCC claims the company has not “provided specific information on certain required elements” for its space debris cleanup plan. The big concern for a constellation of satellites of this size is that it will lead to more collisions in space, creating debris that could threaten other satellites.
Amazon is one of the few companies looking to launch a gigantic number of satellites into orbit to provide broadband internet connections. Most notable among these competitors is SpaceX, which has received FCC approval to launch about 12,000 satellites for its Starlink project. SpaceX has launched more than 500 Starlink satellites to date and plans to begin beta testing the system this summer. Meanwhile, UK company OneWeb also hopes to create a “constellation” of 650 satellites and has already launched 74 of them. The company filed for bankruptcy this year but was recently rescued by a consortium that includes the UK government and Indian telecommunications company Bharti Global.
Amazon says Kuiper “will provide broadband services to unserved and underserved consumers, businesses in the United States and global customers using advanced satellite and earth station technology,” according to the FCC filing. Amazon also announced on its Project Kuiper blog that it will provide “transport solutions for wireless carriers, expanding LTE and 5G services in new regions”.