Tech

Kuiper’s project and Amazon’s satellite broadband plan are getting off the ground

At the top Amazon press release sent out this weekeerie image. This is a rocket with the American flag and a smiling Amazon logo, taking off into the skies. The company is officially taking its business into space, and Jeff Bezos isn’t even doing it.

Amazon recently announced that by the end of next year startup called ABL Space Systems will supply two prototype satellites for the Kuiper project, the company’s effort to create a constellation of satellites in low-earth orbit, or LEO, that can relay an Internet connection to Earth. Amazon says it will eventually deploy 3,236 of these satellites, “which will provide fast and affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world.” It doesn’t hurt that becoming a space-based ISP could also help grow Amazon Web Services (AWS )’s cloud computing business, and Amazon says satellites will work with Verizon to deliver LTE and 5G services to hard-to-reach places.

It’s hard to argue with the idea of ​​getting more people online. In some parts of the world, broadband it’s a human right… But if you’re worried about Amazon’s growing dominance over everything, it might seem daunting that one of the most powerful companies in the world is launching satellites into space and soon to be driving internet traffic across the planet. In addition, AWS makes a new satellite Internet business doomed to succeed. As Babak Beheshti, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at New York Institute of Technology, said, told me last year“Amazon will, in fact, become its own largest customer to really increase its revenue stream.”

But given the history of telecommunications monopolies here on Earth, it really may not be all that bad that more companies are joining the Internet space race.

“Increased competition in the market over the next few years is likely to spur innovation that will lead to better service and, ideally, more affordable prices,” said Mark Buell, regional vice president of the Internet Society for North America. , an international organization that advocates the open development and use of the Internet.

Amazon is not alone in creating a fast and reliable internet service using satellite constellations. Starlink, a SpaceX project, already has over 1,700 satellites in low earth orbit, and the company says so employs about 90,000 people currently testing the service, each paying $ 99 a month (plus $ 499 for a satellite dish) for this privilege. OneWeb, a UK company, came out of bankruptcy a year ago, there are more than 350 satellites in orbit now, about half of everything he plans for his constellation.

The idea behind all of these services is relatively simple when it comes to space. A fiber optic ground station transmits data to the satellite constellation, and the satellites relay the data back to clients. Even though you’re literally flying into space and back, connections can be fast too. Project Kuiper announces its prototype provides speeds up to 400 Mbpsmuch faster than average US broadband speed… And because the connection is from the sky, you can access the Internet from virtually anywhere on the planet without having to run wires through mountains, under the ocean, through rainforests, or anywhere else in a remote location. Amazon itself may be in a unique position to do this especially well.

“Providing telecommunications services is more than just launching satellites into space,” Buell said. “The infrastructure must be in place. Amazon has invested heavily in fiber optic cables to connect its data centers – and not least, Amazon is doing well in the logistics it will need to operate more than 3,200 satellites. ”

Bringing more people to the Internet in itself is a very realistic goal for Amazon, but again, the company’s ambition may go beyond that. Last year AWS completed construction of six ground stations as part of a new initiative offering its customers easier access to satellite communications management and satellite data processing. The business is called AWS Ground StationNaturally, and pretty soon, it looks like Amazon will have its own satellites in orbit, potentially informing about any services AWS decides to offer in the future.

However, the fact that Amazon will launch Project Kuiper not only to sell Internet services to customers but also to promote its AWS offerings is hardly a scandal. The commercial space industry is in its infancy, and there are many advantages to figuring out the basic logistics of launching rockets and satellites into orbit and experimenting with what is possible. This is what Jeff Bezos has been doing since stepping down as CEO of the company he founded earlier this year. His space company Blue Origin recently announced plans to build a “multifunctional business park” in orbit that would lease parts of the space station for commercial use. A habitable satellite could be online by the time the International Space Station is decommissioned, probably at the end of this decade.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk has stated that he wants the proceeds from Starlink to be used to pay for his Starship project and missions to colonize other planets. Billionaire said in 2019 that the space broadband business is “an important stepping stone towards a self-sufficient city on Mars and a base on the moon.” The starship has already been selected as Artemis mission machinewho plan to land people on the moon as early as 2024.

But neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin will launch Amazon’s new satellites into space. It appears that ABL Space Systems, a California-based startup that specializes in delivering small payloads to orbit in addition to cheaper rockets, has offered Amazon a bargain. ABL Space Systems, which haven’t launched the rocket yet, claims that it will be able to launch almost 1.5 tons of payload into low-earth orbit on its RS1 rocket, the same one that will carry Amazon Kuiper satellites, $ 12 million for launch… SpaceX Falcon 9 launch can cost up to $ 62 million… And Blue Origin seems to be more focused about launching celebrities into space

What makes Project Kuiper and its competitors stand out has little to do with who launches rockets or flies to Mars, or even how Amazon launches a new business in space. For many, the success of these projects can mean the difference between Internet access and no Internet access. Currently at least 21 million Americans No access quality broadband, according to the FCC, which means countless children who can’t access online learning tools and patients who can’t access telemedicine, among others. So if Amazon wants to get more people online, well, there are many benefits to many. And Amazon has a lot of new leads.


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