The idea of using a network of satellites to provide global internet is nothing new. Companies like OneWeb and Elon Musk’s Starlink project have aspired to accomplish this for years. Now, powerhouse Amazon has plans of their own. For once, global internet access may become reality.
While many companies have focused on creating satellite internet for profit, Amazon wants to do things differently. Their plan to blanket 95 percent of Earth’s population with low-latency service would help “unserved and underserved communities around the world.”
So, how exactly does Amazon plan to provide high-quality satellite internet for most of the planet? The endeavor, code named Project Kuiper, will launch a network of over 3000 satellites into low-Earth orbit at varying heights.
The plan to position the satellites in low-Earth orbit will allow the company to manage them for a lower cost and reduce latency in the internet service. A spokesperson from Amazon recently claimed that the long-term project aims to serve the millions of people without access to basic broadband internet. The announcement also mentioned Amazon sharing the vision with other companies.
This has left satellite manufacturers and private space firms salivating at the prospect. Conveniently, CEO Jeff Bezos owns his own spaceflight company: Blue Origin. Whether or not this is how Project Kuiper takes to the skies remains to be seen.
No Timeline in Place
Though this project is extremely exciting, it will require patience on the part of Amazon and consumers. Currently, Kuiper has no timeframe for when satellites will be launched or when service will begin.
The primary delay lies with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Before Amazon can launch their network of satellites, they will need to attain approval. With concerns of orbital junk growing at an alarming rate, launching thousands of more satellites into space may never get a green light. Even if the project does get approved, NASA has recommended that 99 percent of satellites from these massive networks will need to be retrieved back to Earth when their mission is complete.
Earth’s orbit is currently filled with countless satellites and smaller debris from destroyed ones. As the junk travels over 26,000 mph it can cause serious damage to spacecraft and functioning satellites. Scientists fear if the growing maze of junk grows even larger, spaceflight and satellites would no longer be possible. Obviously, this would have horrific consequences for life as we know it.
So, Amazon’s plan to provide internet for underserved populations is noble indeed. However, Project Kuiper may be shut down before it can even begin. With the threat of space junk growing, only time will tell whether we see this project lift off.