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Amazon commits $10B to satellites after FCC’s OK

The Federal Communications Commission has authorized Amazon’s plans for a Project Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites that would provide broadband internet access across a wide swath of the globe — but on the condition that it doesn’t unduly interfere with previously authorized satellite ventures.

In response, Amazon said it would invest more than $10 billion in the project. “We’re off to the races,” Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services, said in a statement.

The FCC’s non-interference requirements and other conditions are laid out in a 24-page order that was adopted on July 29 and released today. The ruling addresses objections registered by Amazon’s rivals — including SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat.

Project Kuiper’s satellites are to be launched in five phases, and service would begin once Amazon launched the first 578 satellites. Under the terms of the FCC’s order, Amazon will have to launch half of its satellites by mid-2026, and the rest of them by mid-2029.

Amazon had sought to vie on an equal footing with constellation operators whose plans had been previously authorized by the FCC, but the commission said that in fairness, Project Kuiper would have to give deference to those plans. The FCC said that it expected Amazon’s mega-constellation rivals to act in good faith to resolve radio interference concerns.

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SpaceX may spin out its Starlink satellite venture

Starlink satellite
An artist’s conception shows the deployment of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. (SpaceX Illustration)

SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell is quoted as saying that the company is planning to spin out its Starlink satellite internet operation — which is currently centered in Redmond, Wash. — and offer shares in an initial public offering.

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Apple reportedly working on secret satellite project

Image: Satellite web
An artist’s conception shows a constellation of satellites in orbit. (Credit: OneWeb)

Apple has joined SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon and other companies in targeting the market for satellite internet services, Bloomberg News reported today.

Bloomberg quoted unidentified people familiar with the work as saying that the California-based company has a secret team working on technologies that it could use to beam internet services directly to devices, bypassing wireless networks. The effort is reportedly still in its early stages and may not necessarily come to fruition.

Apple did not immediately respond to GeekWire’s inquiries about the report.

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Amazon seeks FCC’s OK for Kuiper satellites

Jeff Bezos
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at the re:MARS conference in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

By Alan Boyle and Taylor Soper

Amazon is asking the Federal Communications Commission for approval of its Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, and referring to potential synergies with Amazon Web Services as a strong selling point.

GeekWire first reported news of Project Kuiper in April, when Amazon revealed plans to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage.

That revelation was contained in documents that were filed with the International Telecommunication Union. On July 4, Amazon’s wholly owned Kuiper Systems subsidiary followed up with a fresh set of FCC filings.

The filings confirm that the project would consist of 3,236 satellites in 98 orbital planes, at altitudes ranging between 366 and 391 miles (590 and 630 kilometers).

“Amazon’s mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and the Kuiper System is one of our ambitious projects to fulfill this mission,” the application reads. “The Kuiper System will deliver satellite broadband communications services to tens of millions of unserved and underserved consumers and businesses in the United States and around the globe.”

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SpaceX deals out 60 Starlink internet satellites

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with 60 Starlink satellites packed in its nose cone. (Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Photo via Twitter)

After two postponements, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket executed a mission that dealt out 60 Starlink broadband data satellites in low Earth orbit.

The rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, right on time, at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) tonight.

A little more than an hour after launch, the flat-panel satellites — which were built at SpaceX’s development facility in Redmond, Wash. — floated away from the Falcon 9’s second stage and spread themselves out like a deck of cards.

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FCC approves SpaceX’s revised satellite plan

Starlink simulation
A simulation shows how a 4,425-satellite constellation could be deployed for SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service. (Mark Handley / University College London)

The Federal Communications Commission today approved SpaceX’s proposed revisions in its plan to put thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband connectivity, clearing the way to start launching satellites next month.

SpaceX already had authorization for 4,425 Starlink satellites that would use Ku- and Ka-band radio spectrum to beam internet data, but last November, the company asked the FCC to sign off on a plan that would put more than a third of the satellites in 550-kilometer-high (340-mile-high) orbits rather than the previously approved 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) orbits.

Eventually, SpaceX plans to add another wave of more than 7,500 satellites in even lower orbits to enhance the constellation’s coverage.

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SoftBank and Loon team up in global internet race

Hawk30 high-altitude drone
An artist’s conception shows HAPSMobile’s Hawk30 aircraft in flight. (HAPSMobile / SoftBank Illustration)

HAPSMobile, a joint venture created by Japan’s SoftBank Corp. and California-based AeroVironment, is jumping into the race to provide global broadband access from above, alongside SpaceX, Amazon, OneWeb and Telesat.

Unlike those four companies, HAPSMobile plans to use high-flying, solar-powered planes rather than satellites to transmit signals wirelessly over a wide swath of the planet’s surface. In that respect, the concept has more in common with the aerial broadband concept that Facebook was pursuing until last year.

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Satellite veterans go from SpaceX to Amazon

SpaceX Starlink satellites
SpaceX’s two prototype Starlink satellites are seen on either side of their carrier in advance of last year’s launch. (SpaceX via YouTube)

The leadership team for Amazon’s newly revealed broadband satellite constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, includes engineers who left SpaceX’s Starlink constellation program last year as part of a reorganization, industry sources say.

The personnel shift, first reported today by CNBC, illustrates how interconnected and competitive the satellite mega-constellation business is turning out to be.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the sources said the engineers include Rajeev Badyal, who was the SpaceX vice president in charge of the Starlink program before the reorganization; and Mark Krebs, a veteran of Google’s aerospace efforts who played a key role in developing the first two prototype Starlink satellites for SpaceX.

Both of those engineers were identified as casualties of last year’s Starlink reorganization, which was said to involve a trip by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to the company’s satellite development facility in Redmond, Wash., to fire at least seven senior managers.

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Relativity Space to launch satellites for Telesat

Relativity Terran 1 liftoff
An artist’s conception shows Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Relativity Space Illustration)

Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis is a veteran of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture — and in a sense, you could say that Ellis and Blue Origin are on the same team once again.

Today, the startup that Ellis co-founded in Seattle and moved to Los Angeles is making its first announcement of a launch contract, and it’s a big one: Relativity Space will provide multiple launches for Telesat, the Canadian telecom giant that’s planning to put scores of satellites in low Earth orbit to deliver global broadband connectivity.

“This is the first time Telesat or any major global satellite operator has selected a completely venture-backed aerospace startup for launch services,” Ellis told GeekWire.

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Amazon quickly lists more than 70 satellite jobs

Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, speaks at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington, D.C. (Via Satellite Magazine via YouTube)

Boy, that escalated quickly: Just hours after GeekWire revealed that Amazon is planning a 3,236-satellite constellation to provide global broadband access, code-named Project Kuiper, the company posted scores of job openings for the new space venture.

Virtually all of the 73 Kuiper-related jobs listed on Amazon’s website are in Bellevue, Wash. One exception is a Seattle opening for a senior corporate counsel specializing in international trade and export control.

The timing is notable given Amazon’s decision to relocate its worldwide operations team from Seattle to Bellevue — a decision that seems to signal that the tech giant is cooling on its hometown.

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