Monday, April 08, 2019

Now Amazon Wants to Build a 3200+ Constellation of Low Earth Orbit Micro-Sats to Provide Broadband to Rural Areas

          By Chuck Black

Seattle WA based has joined the list of companies planning to build large constellations of hundreds or thousands of low Earth orbiting satellites able to provide broadband internet connectivity to rural areas not currently being served.

As outlined in the April 4th, 2019 Geekwire post, "Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite ‘Project Kuiper’ constellation," Amazon hasn’t disclosed who would build the satellites or when they would be launched and hasn’t yet filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for US market access for the system.

But it has provided a name for the new constellation. As outlined in the Geekwire post:
The effort, code-named Project Kuiper, follows up on last September’s mysterious reports that Amazon was planning a “big, audacious space project” involving satellites and space-based systems. The Seattle-based company is likely to spend billions of dollars on the project, and could conceivably reap billions of dollars in revenue once the satellites go into commercial service. 
It’ll take years to bring the big, audacious project to fruition, however, and Amazon could face fierce competition from SpaceX, OneWeb and other high-profile players. 
Project Kuiper’s first public step took the form of three sets of filings made with the International Telecommunication Union last month by the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Washington, D.C.-based Kuiper Systems LLC. The ITU oversees global telecom satellite operations and eventually will have to sign off on Kuiper’s constellation. 
According to the article, "Amazon said the satellites would provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south. About 95 percent of the world’s population lives within that wide swath of the planet."

This would put the Amazon constellation in direct competition with Ottawa ON based Telesat which, as outline on their Telesat LEO. Why LEO web page is hoping to do much the same thing using only a few hundred micro-sats.

An Amazon spokesperson told GeekWire said it’s too early to say whether Kent WA based Blue Origin, another company founded and controlled by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will have a lock on the launch contracts, saying, “We will of course look at all options.”

As outlined in the January 31st, 2019 Space News post, "Telesat signs New Glenn multi-launch agreement with Blue Origin for LEO missions," Telesat has:
agreed to launch satellites for its future low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation on multiple New Glenn missions, Blue Origin announced January 31st. 
The agreement, for an unspecified number of launches and satellites, makes Telesat the fifth customer to sign up to use the reusable launcher, which is slated for a maiden flight in 2021.
In essence, it's a small world.
Chuck Black.

Chuck Black is the editor of the Commercial Space blog. 

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