space satellite constellations

Amazon given permission to launch over 3,000 broadband satellites

Amazon has been granted FCC approval for its $10bn (£7.6bn) plan to launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites that will be used to provide high-speed broadband connectivity to underserved communities.

Dubbed ‘Project Kuiper’, it is expected to take up to a decade to launch all of the satellites, which have been designed to provide internet to tens of millions of people around the world who currently lack access.

The satellites will be placed into low-earth orbit where they should be able to provide low-latency connections to those on the ground. One of the FCC’s requirements was that Amazon's launches do not impact any other satellite launches that have already been planned.

Amazon claims it needs just 578 satellites to begin an initial service, which will be expanded over time.

“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,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president at Amazon.

“There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10bn investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap.

We appreciate the FCC's unanimous, bipartisan support on this issue and I want to thank Chairman Pai and the rest of the Commission for taking this important first step with us. We’re off to the races.”

Amazon envisages that the network could also be used during disaster relief if local, ground-based infrastructure has been damaged.

The online retail giant has not announced who it will choose to launch the satellites, although the firm’s CEO Jeff Bezos already owns rocket company Blue Origin.

In 2018, Elon Musk’s SpaceX also got FCC approval to launch 7,000 satellites for its Starlink project, also intended to provide broadband from space. The first batch of 60 satellites were launched in May 2019.

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell, who in February floated the idea of spinning Starlink off for an IPO in the coming years, said the project will cost the company roughly $10bn.

The FCC authorisation for the Amazon project, which was adopted with a 5-0 vote, requires the firm to launch half of its satellites no later than mid-2026 and build the rest of the constellation by mid-2029.

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