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Aug 7, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Amazon: Online retail giant aiming to follow SpaceX’s lead by launching satellites into orbit

On 5 July Amazon reached a milestone in its Project Kuiper, which seeks to deploy satellites into space to provide broadband internet access to remote parts of the world that are currently unserved or underserved. The American giant has filed an application with the US authorities to place in orbit more than 3,000 relay satellites by a date yet to be specified. In its awareness of the growing problem of orbital debris, Amazon is planning to dispose of its satellites after ten years in operation, regardless of their condition. 


Amazon has its sights set on space. On 5 July, the US giant filed an official application with the USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 3,236 relay satellites in orbit as part of its Project Kuiper. The aim of the project is to provide broadband internet access to people across virtually the entire planet, as reported by Numerama


Three different altitudes  


In filing the application, Amazon has made it clear that it intends to bring the project to fruition. The documents it has filed provide the press and industry experts with more information on the technical aspects of the programme, chief among them the fact that satellites will operate at different altitudes. Some 784 of them will be positioned at 590km above the Earth, 1,296 will be in orbit at 610km and the remaining 1,156 at 630km. 

The application does not contain any information as to when the various phases of the project will be implemented or the means by which the satellites will be sent into space. Numerama points out, however, that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is also the founder of Blue Origin, a company specialising in spacecraft technologies. One of the launchers currently being developed by Blue Origin could also be used as part of Project Kuiper.  


No to space debris 


The technical appendix submitted as part of Amazon’s official application states that the satellites will be programmed to remain in orbit for no more than ten years, regardless of their operating condition, a precautionary measure designed to restrict the growing amount of space debris. 

The FCC will not be responding to the application in the immediate future. The United Nations (UN), through the International Telecommunication Union, must also give its approval before the project can get under way. 

In a statement sent to the website Geek Wire in April, the online retail giant described Project Kuiper as a “a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet”. Bezos later estimated that the project would have a budget of “several billion dollars”.


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