Amazon has received US approval to launch 3,236 Earth low-orbit satellites for its planned “Project Kuiper” broadband service.
An order from the Federal Communications Commission granting Amazon’s application was released Thursday. Amazon said in a blog post that it will invest more than $ 10 billion in the project.
“This investment will create jobs and infrastructure across the United States, build and expand our terrestrial network, accelerate satellite testing and manufacturing, and let us deliver a customer terminal at a cost affordable to make fast and reliable broadband accessible to communities around the world, “Amazon said. Amazon will target areas without good Internet service and said “The Kuiper Project will deliver high-speed, low-speed broadband service to locations beyond the reach of traditional or wireless fiber networks. . “
The planned satellites orbit at an altitude of 590km, 610km, and 630km, allowing far lower latencies than traditional satellite services using geosynchronous orbits of more than 35,000km. That’s similar to SpaceX’s Starlink, but SpaceX is much further ahead, launching about 600 satellites and preparing to begin beta testing with customers.
Service starting 578 satellites once launched
FCC rules give Amazon six years to launch and operate 50 percent of the licensed satellites, with an expiration date of July 30, 2026. Amazon will have to launch the rest of the licensed satellites by 30 July 2029.
Amazon plans to offer broadband to customers “once the first 578 satellites are launched,” the FCC said. Amazon has not said when the service will be available to customers.
The FCC approval said Amazon’s plan “will prove[e] Continuous coverage for customers at approximately 56 ° N and 56 ° S latitude, thus serving the contiguous United States, Hawaii, U.S. territories and other regions of the world. “The plan calls for the use of frequencies of 17.7-18.6 GHz and 18.8-20.2 GHz for space-to-Earth communications, and 27.5-30.0 GHz for ground-based transmissions. The FCC said it granted the license because it “advances the public interest by authorizing a system designed to increase the availability of high – speed broadband service. to consumers, government, and businesses. “
Amazon filed the FCC application in July 2019 – more details about Amazon’s plan are available in our story on the application.
FCC approval includes requirements for minimizing orbital debris and collision risk, preventing harmful interference, spectrum sharing, and power limits. Amazon’s Kuiper satellite design is incomplete, so the company will need another FCC approval after submitting a final plan for orbital mitigation, collision risk and casualty risk. of re-entry. FCC approval is also conditional on Amazon obtaining a “favorable” rating from the International Telecommunication Union to demonstrate compliance with power limits.
In addition to SpaceX, the Amazon Kuiper Project could potentially face satellite competition on Earth from OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy in late March. On 3 July, OneWeb agreed to sell the business to a consortium including the UK government and Bharti Global Limited. The UK government, which is investing $ 500 million, said, “The agreement will allow the company to complete construction of a global satellite constellation providing enhanced broadband and other services to countries around the world. world. ” OneWeb also has an investment from Hughes, which operates geosynchronous satellites.