Amazon is moving forward with a plan to launch thousands of satellites into space in order to bring broadband internet service to the nearly all of the United States.
Amazon subsidiary Kuiper Systems filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday to obtain permission to launch 3,236 broadband satellites into low-Earth orbit. The goal of the satellites would be to cover the majority of the United States with broadband, with the exception being Alaska due to the state’s high latitude, ArsTechnica reports.
We first learned of Amazon’s Project Kuiper in April. At the time, an Amazon representative described the project as “a new initiative to launch a constellation of low-Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”
The new filings suggest that beyond home and business internet service, the satellites could also potentially be used by mobile phone companies to provide better coverage in rural areas.
Amazon hasn’t provided a timeline for the launch of the service; however, the FCC will require at least half of the satellites to be deployed within six years of it authorizes them. The remaining half will need to be deployed within nine years unless Amazon obtains a waiver. The company could also opt to offer broadband through a third party rather than directly to consumers.
If approved, Amazon’s satellites will be deployed at three different altitudes, 784 satellites at a height of 367 miles, 1,296 more at 379 miles, and 1,156 at 391 miles from Earth’s surface.
Kuiper’s president, Rajeev Badyal, was previously fired from SpaceX after CEO Elon Musk was unhappy with his progress in creating a satellite-broadband program. SpaceX already has permission from the FCC to deploy 12,000 similar satellites as part of its Starlink satellite internet program, and has already sent some into space.
The first batch of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites were launched in May. In late June, the company announced that 57 of the first 60 satellites were working as intended and were in communication with the company’s ground stations. SpaceX lost communication with the remaining three satellites at launch and hasn’t heard from them since.