by Douglas Messier
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved Amazon’s plan to launch its Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites to provide global broadband coverage.
Jeff Bezos’ company plans to invest $10 billion in the constellation, which will compete with OneWeb and SpaceX’s Starlink system to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband services via satellite.
According to the FCC’s approval order, Amazon plans to deploy Kuiper in five phases. Initial service will be offered once the first 578 satellites are launched.
The FAA has stipulated that Amazon must launch and operate 50 percent of its satellites no later than July 30, 2026. The remainder of the satellites must be operation on orbit by July 30, 2029.
Kuiper’s 3,236 satellites will operate in 98 orbital planes in medium Earth orbit at altitudes of 590 km, 610 km, and 630 km.
In order to limit orbital debris, Amazon plans to deorbit Kuiper satellites within 355 days following the completion of their mission. This is a much shorter than the 25-year standard established by NASA.
“Because the design of Kuiper’s satellites is not completed, and because Kuiper consequently did not present specific information concerning some required elements of a debris mitigation plan, we condition our grant of the Kuiper application on Kuiper presenting, and the Commission granting, a modification of this authorization to provide for review of the final orbital debris mitigation plan,” the FCC said.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already launched 540 spacecraft as part of its Starlink constellation of 4,425 Ka-band satellites. The company has begun beta testing of its system.
FCC also has granted SpaceX approval to launch 7,518 satellites that will operate in the V band. The company also has applied to launch an additional 30,000 broadband spacecraft.
OneWeb has launched 74 satellites of its initial constellation of 648 spacecraft. The company recently emerged from bankruptcy and plans to resume launches.