Amazon to build its own giant satellite constellation


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Capitalism in space: Amazon has officially joined the race to build own giant satellite constellations for providing internet access worldwide.

[They] plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit — including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610 kilometers); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630-kilometer) orbits.

In response to GeekWire’s inquiries, Amazon confirmed that Kuiper Systems is actually one of its projects. “Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

The competition now includes Amazon, SpaceX, OneWeb, and others, each of which will provide a lot of business for the launch industry. All told, more than 15,000 satellites will need to be launched by these companies before the middle of the next decade.

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6 comments

  • Col Beausabre

    Which brings up the question, who plays traffic cop? I realize that space is unimaginably vast, but there must be certain orbits viewed as better than others, so who says who gets what? And what happens when we have thousands of dead satellites on our hands? Who makes sure that there is the capability and plan to deorbit them safely?

  • Captain Emeritus

    Will SpaceX haul them up for Jeff?

  • Ian C.

    Col Beausabre:

    There’s regulation with a focus on constellations in the making.

    https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-02-19/pdf/2019-02230.pdf

  • Edward

    Col Beausabre,
    Excellent questions. Space News recently pondered similar questions:
    https://spacenews.com/op-ed-protecting-low-earth-orbit-from-becoming-the-new-wild-west/

    with adequate support [low Earth orbit] could become a $1 trillion-plus industry worldwide within 10 to 15 years.

    Another good question is the supply chain for the parts, components, and equipment needed for these constellations (megaconstellations?).
    https://spacenews.com/ruag-revises-strategy-to-win-constellation-orders/

    Before constellations changed the market, Ruag optimized satellite parts for technical excellence. Now, the company balances three goals. A part must be technically sufficient to perform its function. It also must be inexpensive and easily mass produced. Without all three elements, “you have no business case”

    You noted: “I realize that space is unimaginably vast, but there must be certain orbits viewed as better than others, so who says who gets what?

    An early “best” orbit was geostationary orbit (GEO), especially for communication satellites, as once described by Arthur C. Clark.
    https://web.archive.org/web/20060715074807/http://www.clarkefoundation.org/docs/ClarkeWirelessWorldArticle.pdf

    In the 1970s, it was realized that the spacefaring nations could grab up all the available slots at GEO and prevent other countries from using slots that could serve them. An international organization now protects and allocates slots. In order to prevent a country or company from hogging good slots, there are drop dead dates for a satellite to be in place, otherwise the slot will become available for another satellite.

    India was an early user of GEO slots, when they began to use satellites for remote doctors to use television as a real-time aid in consulting with specialists in city hospitals; seeing a patient on a monitor greatly helped with solving the patient’s problem. India was a major advocate of the regulation of GEO slots.

  • Ian C.

    Edward,

    In the case of GEO slots it’s the ITU as the dominant application (communication) is clear. I wonder whether an int’l org could do the same (but for mining, habitats etc.) for other hot real estate. E.g. the Lunar South pole or specific regions on Mars. UNOOSA could theoretically be the right one (but I distrust them). And would we even want it (now, later)? Ideas?

  • eddie willers

    GEOs are lousy for internet. 46,000+ miles add up.

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