Amazon to Launch a Constellation of 3,236 Satellites

Amazon, the US technology company, has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch 3,236 satellites on three different low earth orbits to provide high-speed broadband services to places without Internet or somewhere in need.

Recent public filings released by FCC shows that Amazon’s satellite network project was codenamed “Project Kuiper”. According to the project, The Amazon constellation will be deployed in three altitudes — 784 in a 590-kilometer orbit, 1,156 in a 630-kilometer orbit, and 1,296 in a 610-kilometer orbit. They will use frequency band Ka and hope to provide more reliable broadband access to 3.8 billion people ranging from 56 degrees north down to 56 degrees south, including 21.3 million Americans who are currently not able to get access to broadband services.

In its FCC filing, apart from providing service for rural areas, it also offered the prospect of high-throughput mobile broadband connectivity services “for aircraft, maritime vessels and land vehicles”.

Amazon is new to this satellite network competition. In its FCC filing, Amazon emphasized its competitive advantages, saying that it has what “Project Kuiper” needs, including global ground network, computational infrastructure and cloud computing network, such as data center and edge computing capacity. It plans to connect satellite network with ground network.

Till now, several companies have implemented or devised their satellite network projects. SpaceX plans to send around 12,000 satellites into space between 2019 and 2014 to form the “Starlink” network. The company sent the first batch of 60 “Starlink” satellites into a 550km-orbit on May 23, and 57 of them are working properly.

On the other hand, astronomers are concerned about deploying a huge amount of satellites in low earth orbit. They believed that the number of these satellites would increase rapidly and may finally outnumber the stars visible in the night sky, which might pose “tremendous adverse impact” on ground- and space-based astronomical observation, including significant disruption of optical and near-infrared observation due to reflected and emitted light, contamination of radio astronomical observation by electromagnetic radiation in satellite communication bands, and the risk of collision with space observatories.