AP Photo/Reed Saxon
Amazon was on Thursday granted regulatory approval to create a satellite constellation as part of a $10 billion (€8.4 billion) project to provide affordable internet to underserved communities around the world.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper will compete with the Starlink constellation being set up by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
David Limp, Amazon’s Senior Vice President, welcomed the positive order from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a blog post, writing: “We have heard so many stories lately about people who are unable to do their job or complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home.”
“There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that,” he added.
The FCC granted approval after a 5-0 vote in favour. It argued in the order authorisation that Kuiper “would advance the public interest by authorising a system designed to increase the availability of high-speed broadband service to consumers, government, and businesses.”
Amazon’s constellation will total 3,286 low Earth orbit satellites which will operate in 98 orbital planes at altitudes of between 590 km to 630 km. It will eventually provide coverage to places ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south — nearly the entire inhabited surface of the globe.
According to the United Nations, the vast majority of the 3.7 billion people in developing countries are still unconnected.
No date has been given as to when Project Kuiper would come online but the FCC requires the company to launch and operate half of its constellation by July 2026 with the remaining half to be operational by mid-2029.
Kuiper can start its service once its first 578 satellites are launched.
SpaceX’s Starlink was granted FCC approval back in 2018 and has already launched 500 of its planned 12,000 satellites. Some 420 were operational in April. It anticipated earlier this year that it would be able to begin offering commercial service in North America by the end of the year.