Amazon is about to go head-to-head with SpaceX in the battle for internet dominance in space.


Amazon has filed with the FCC to expand its constellation to 7,774 satellites, allowing it to cover regions north and south, including Alaska, as Starlink does.

There’s a fortune to be had: SpaceX currently charges $110 a month for access to Starlink, and $599 up front for an antenna to connect the satellites. According to a letter he wrote to shareholders last year, Amazon is spending “more than $10 billion” to develop Kuiper, and more than 1,000 employees are working on the project. Amazon’s current CEO, Andy Jassy, ​​has said Kuiper has the potential to become a “fourth pillar” for the company, alongside Amazon Prime and its widely used cloud computing service, Amazon Web Services.

“Amazon’s business model depends on people having an Internet connection,” said Shagun Sachdeva, an industry expert at Cosmic Apple, a French-based investment firm. “It makes a lot of sense for them to have this constellation to provide communication.”

Amazon isn’t yet disclosing the cost of the service, but it says its goal is to “bridge the digital divide by bringing fast and affordable broadband to underserved communities,” an ambition Starlink has also said. But it remains to be seen whether costs will be reduced enough to make that achievable. “Costs will go down, but the question is to what extent,” says Sachdeva. On March 14, the company revealed that it is producing its own antennas for $400 for a standard antenna, although the retail price has not yet been disclosed.

Amazon claims to offer speeds of up to one gigabit per second and one terabit of bandwidth. Those are the same numbers as Starlink, and the two services generally look similar. The main difference is that Starlink is operational and has been for years, while Amazon doesn’t plan to launch Kuiper as a service until mid-2024, giving SpaceX a big head start to attract users and secure contracts.

Astronomical problem

There are also concerns about space debris and its impact on ground-based astronomy. Before 2019, there were only about 3,000 active satellites in space. SpaceX and Amazon alone could increase that number to 20,000 by the end of this decade. Keeping track of so many moving objects in the loop and making sure they don’t collide with each other is a headache.

“We are not satisfied with staying safe. [even] “One of these systems is in orbit,” said Hugh Lewis, a space debris expert at the University of Southampton in England, who has tracked thousands of close calls between Starlink, OneWeb and other satellites. “They are constantly rolling the dice. I think at some point, no matter how hard you try, there will be conflict.”

An Amazon spokeswoman said the company “is taking into account the security of our systems and operations.” The spokeswoman added that the satellites would be de-orbited within a year of completing their missions, and that in the event of a satellite crash, atmospheric drag would “help the remaining satellites naturally flip over”.



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