Amazon to take on SpaceX’s broadband-from-space
Amazon.com Inc.’s Kuiper Systems LLC asked U.S. regulators for permission to launch another 4,538 satellites that would bolster its constellation as it competes with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for broadband-from-space customers.
The additions would bring Kuiper’s constellation to 7,774 satellites, the company said in a filing Thursday with the Federal Communications Commission.
The companies are joining a rush to offer internet service from orbits near the Earth, spurred in a part by decreasing launch costs. Low orbits offer minimal lag time for data to bounce between a user on the ground and the spacecraft.
Kuiper’s request was among nine applications, submitted under an FCC deadline, that requested authorization for a total of more than 35,000 spacecraft. That’s more than seven times the number aloft today. Those figures don’t include nearly 30,000 additional satellites proposed by segment leader SpaceX, which already has launched more than 1,700 of its Starlink spacecraft.
Companies filing for FCC approval Thursday included Boeing Co., which proposed another 5,789 communications satellites after winning permission on Nov. 3 for 147 satellites. The additional spacecraft will boost capacity to serve businesses and governments, Boeing said in its application.
Astra Space Inc. asked permission for 13,620 satellites for what it described as “communications services, environmental and natural resource applications, and national security missions.”
Boeing said in an email the new satellites could help mitigate congestion in some communications frequencies. Astra didn’t immediately return emails seeking comment, and an Amazon spokesman didn’t supply a comment when asked.
Kuiper and Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. each have applications before the FCC for satellite fleets in low-earth orbit. The companies have been sparring in recent months, with Amazon contending that SpaceX hasn’t met regulatory requirements. SpaceX dismissed the criticism as irrelevant.
SpaceX has emerged as a space leader, having launched at least 1,700 of its Starlink broadband satellites with plans for thousands more. Amazon.com earlier won FCC approval for 3,236 satellites, and says it will launch two prototypes late next year. London-based OneWeb is building a fleet of 648 satellites.