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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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FCC chief tweets support for Amazon satellite plan

The Federal Communications Commission’s chairman, Ajit Pai, says he’s proposing approval of Amazon’s plan to put more than 3,200 satellites into low Earth orbit for a broadband internet constellation known as Project Kuiper … with conditions.

In a tweet, Pai said he shared his proposal today with colleagues on the commission.

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Report: Amazon checking out OneWeb’s assets

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

London’s Telegraph newspaper reports that Amazon is understood to be among the entities sifting through the assets of OneWeb, a venture that began building a constellation of broadband internet satellites but filed for bankruptcy in March.

Amazon’s interest has to do with its plans to create its own broadband constellation, known as Project Kuiper. The most attractive assets that OneWeb has to offer would arguably be its rights to radio frequency spectrum and its access to the U.S. market — advantages that Amazon currently lacks.

Among the other entities looking at OneWeb’s assets, according to the Space Intel Report, are SpaceX, Eutelsat and the British government.

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Amazon counters opposition to Kuiper satellites

Mega-constellation
Multiple mega-constellations of satellites could take root in low Earth orbit over the next few years. (European Space Agency Illustration)

Amazon fired its latest volley today in a back-and-forth debate over whether the company can proceed in an expedited fashion with its 3,236-satellite Project Kuiper mega-constellation for broadband internet access.

Today’s 24-page letter to the Federal Communications Commission addresses objections raised by SpaceX, OneWeb and other mega-constellation ventures to Amazon’s request for an “expeditious grant” of its application to launch and operate the Kuiper satellites.

“Affording equitable access to spectrum and orbital resources will increase investment, innovation, and consumer choice.” Mariah Dodson Shuman, corporate counsel for Kuiper Systems, Amazon’s satellite subsidiary, wrote in the letter.

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Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite team is moving

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)

Amazon announced today that its Project Kuiper satellite operation has outgrown its current office space, and will move into 219,000 square feet of space that it’s leasing in Redmond, Wash. — the same city where one of its chief rivals, SpaceX, has its own satellite operation.

The new headquarters facility, spread across two buildings, will include offices and design space, research and development labs and prototype manufacturing facilities, Amazon said today in a news release.

“Renovations on the facility are already underway, and the Kuiper team will move into the new site in 2020,” Amazon said.

Kuiper HQ will be in the same locale as Microsoft’s world headquarters, and within about an hour’s drive (on a good day) from the growing HQ for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ other big space venture, Blue Origin, south of Seattle in Kent, Wash.

Redmond Commerce Center, which is about a half-mile from SpaceX’s original Redmond office building, seems the likeliest prospect for Project Kuiper’s headquarters. It has two buildings that were recently leased to new tenants, with a total of just over 219,000 square feet. Renovation work is underway, according to Redmond city records. The property’s parking lot has spaces for 300 vehicles.

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How the Seattle area became a satellite hotspot

SpaceX employees in Redmond
SpaceX employees in Redmond, Wash., give a cheer during the countdown to a Falcon 9 rocket launch that put dozens of Redmond-built SpaceX Starlink satellites in orbit on Nov. 11. (SpaceX via YouTube)

Seattle may not be the best place to put a launch pad, but the region is turning into one of the most prolific satellite production centers in the United States.

“How many of you know that Washington state is actually one of the world’s leading satellite manufacturers?” Roger Myers, a longtime aerospace executive who is currently president-elect of the Washington State Academy of Sciences, asked during a session of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s Economic Leadership Forum on Nov. 18.

In terms of sheer mass and revenue, Colorado-based Lockheed Martin and Boeing’s satellite operation in California still have bragging rights.

But when you tally up how many satellites have been launched in the past couple of years, it’s hard to beat SpaceX’s satellite development and manufacturing facility in Redmond, Wash.

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Amazon exec expects satellites to boost sales

Amazon's Dave Limp
Dave Limp, Amazon’s devices and services chief, chats with GeekWire co-founder Todd Bishop during the GeekWire Summit. (Photo by Dan DeLong for GeekWire)

Why is Amazon planning to put thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit? Part of the motivation is to expand Amazon’s footprint in online sales and cloud computing services, says Dave Limp, the company’s devices and services chief.

During a fireside chat at this week’s GeekWire Summit in Seattle, Limp said the primary motivation for Project Kuiper, Amazon’s future satellite mega-satellite constellation, is to offer broadband internet access to the billions of people who are currently underserved. That echoes what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said at the re:MARS conference in June when he talked about Project Kuiper’s genesis.

Building basic infrastructure is also the justification for Amazon’s newly announced effort to build a low-bandwidth, intermediate-range wireless network known as Sidewalk. Project Sidewalk will connect devices that take advantage of the Internet of Things — ranging from appliances to smart lights and dog collars.

Limp made clear this week that providing connectivity isn’t a purely philanthropic effort. He said that faster, wider broadband access can boost retail markets as well as the reach of Amazon Web Services, or AWS, the company’s cloud platform.

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Amazon and OneWeb update their satellite plans

An artist’s conception shows a OneWeb satellite in space. (OneWeb Satellites Illustration)

Filings with the Federal Communications Commission are providing fresh details about the plans being laid by Amazon and OneWeb to set up networks of satellites for global broadband internet access.

OneWeb, for example, is seeking FCC approval for up to 1.5 million ground terminals that customers would use to receive and transmit satellite data.

Amazon, meanwhile, is answering questions from the FCC about how the satellites in its Project Kuiper constellation would be maneuvered and deorbited. The answers make clear that Project Kuiper’s satellite design is still very much in flux.

That’s in contrast to SpaceX, which has already launched 60 of its Starlink satellites and is expected to send another batch into orbit as early as this month.

SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are considered the leading competitors in the nascent market to offer high-speed internet access from low Earth orbit, or LEO, to the billions of people who are currently underserved. Other players in the LEO broadband market include Telesat and LeoSat.

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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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Jeff Bezos explains Amazon’s big bet on satellites

Jenny Freshwater and Jeff Bezos
Amazon’s Jenny Freshwater engages Jeff Bezos in a fireside chat at the re:MARS conference in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

LAS VEGAS — For the first time in public, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained the rationale for his risky Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, during a fireside chat that was interrupted when an animal rights activist jumped on stage.

Today’s half-hour discussion was one of the headliner events for Amazon’s inaugural re:MARS conference, held here in Las Vegas to throw a spotlight on the frontiers of Machine learning, Automation, Robotics and Space. It’s modeled after the invitation-only MARS meeting that Amazon has been organizing annually since 2016.

Bezos and his partner in the fireside chat — Jenny Freshwater, leader of forecasting and capacity planning at Amazon — broadened the focus of the conversation to touch on some of the Amazon CEO’s favorite topics, including his management philosophy and his advice for entrepreneurs.

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