Amazon has now officially joined the internet-from-space race to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink, Facebook Athena, and a few other ventures.
Amazon filed its application for regulatory approval last year and was later sought to be rejected by SpaceX, OneWeb, and several other original licensees who accused the retail giant of jumping to the front of the line after skipping FCC’s spectrum licensing round held in 2016.
According to the terms of the approval, Amazon will be required to have 50 percent of Project Kuiper’s 3,236 satellites in their assigned orbits and operational by July 30, 2026, while the rest will need to be functional by July 30, 2029. Additionally, the FCC laid the condition that Amazon will operate on a “non-interference, non-protected basis” with other operators and also submit an updated “Orbital Debris Mitigation” plan that addresses satellite collision and re-entry casualty risk.
Amazon, which has yet to finalize the design of Kuiper satellites, noted that these satellites will be deorbited within 355 days following mission completion. The company plans to execute Project Kuiper in five phases over the next decade and claims that will only need 578 satellites (~18 percent of total stations) in orbit to begin offering services.
Amazon is also pouring over $10 billion in Project Kuiper and expects the initiative to create jobs and infrastructure in the US, and advance its ground network and satellite manufacturing capabilities to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband to customers around the globe.
Besides giving Amazon an entry into the nascent space-based internet market, Project Kuiper could boost the company’s Amazon Web Services Inc. cloud subsidiary. AWS recently formed a dedicated unit to serve the space sector and offers on-demand ground stations (pictured) for satellite operators.
AWS was born from Amazon’s efforts to productize infrastructure technologies it had originally created for internal use. Similarly, some of the new technologies the company will develop as part of Project Kuiper may end up being made available to customers, possibly through the new aerospace business unit. At the very least, the engineering experience Amazon gains from the initiative could help inform AWS’ development roadmap for products it targets at the space sector.
“We are doing an incredible amount of invention to deliver fast, reliable broadband at a price that makes sense for customers,” Rajeev Badyal, the vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, said in a statement.