What does it take to put a new low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation into service? The myriad technical challenges are not to be underestimated, of course, but a lot of it comes down to money. In the case of the Amazon Kuiper project that’s a $10 billion commitment.
On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 5-0 granting Amazon authority to deploy and operate the constellation of 3,236 satellites. Following that news the company immediately announced plans for the massive cash investment required to deliver on the project.
There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap.– Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon
Kuiper is not the only new satellite constellation aiming to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service to places beyond the reach of traditional fiber or wireless networks. SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb are both a step ahead with satellites in orbit, while Telesat’s LEO constellation proposal is also moving forward. Viasat also recently suggested that it could launch a LEO constellation if it could secure subsidies under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF).
Both Telesat and Viasat expect their constellations to measure in the hundreds of satellites range. Starlink and Kuiper are pushing an order of magnitude larger, much to the chagrin of terrestrial space observers.
Potential for the aviation sector?
With the massive capacity (theoretically) launching in the coming years is there potential for inflight connectivity to benefit from the new networks?
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And there are other challenges as well, mostly around whether the constellations really come to fruition. But a $10bn commitment from a company with the cash on hand to back that up certainly gives Kuiper an advantage.
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