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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.