Science & Technology

Amazon’s Project Kuiper and OneWeb raise the curtain higher on their satellite plans

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Filings with the Federal Communications Fee are offering recent particulars about the plans being laid by Amazon and OneWeb to arrange networks of satellites for international broadband web entry.

OneWeb, for instance, is in search of FCC approval for as much as 1.5 million floor terminals that prospects would use to obtain and transmit satellite information.

Amazon, in the meantime, is answering questions from the FCC about how the satellites in its Project Kuiper constellation could be maneuvered and deorbited. The solutions clarify that Project Kuiper’s satellite design remains to be very a lot in flux.

That’s in distinction to SpaceX, which has already launched 60 of its Starlink satellites and is predicted to ship one other batch into orbit as early as this month.

SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are thought-about the main rivals in the nascent market to supply high-speed web entry from low Earth orbit, or LEO, to the billions of people who find themselves presently underserved. Different gamers in the LEO broadband market embody Telesat and LeoSat.

In a current FCC submitting, SpaceX steered that it could begin providing limited service to parts of the United States by the finish of subsequent yr.

OneWeb launched the first six satellites of its constellation in February and is predicted to launch about 30 more in December. The London-based consortium says it’s planning to supply satellite web entry beginning in late 2020 — with the world’s Arctic regions as its initial focus.

OneWeb’s request for authority to operate 1.5 million user terminals in the United States was filed on Sunday. The terminals, which might be geared up with 18-inch-wide antennas, would work with OneWeb’s gateway amenities to course of the alerts beamed down from its constellation.

It usually takes months for the FCC to assemble remark and make its resolution about such a request. SpaceX filed a similar application for 1 million user terminals again in February, and that software remains to be pending.

Amazon isn’t as far alongside in its plans. It hasn’t stated precisely when it intends to start out constructing, launching or working Project Kuiper’s satellites, and it hasn’t but settled on a launch supplier. However the Seattle-based firm is nonetheless making an enormous dedication to Project Kuiper, which CEO Jeff Bezos called “a very good business for Amazon” throughout a Las Vegas convention in June. Amazon is listing about 100 job openings for the satellite project, just about all primarily based in Bellevue, Wash.

One current FCC submitting regarding Project Kuiper is a Sept. 18 letter from C. Andrew Keisner, lead counsel to Amazon’s Kuiper Methods subsidiary. The letter addresses a collection of questions from the FCC asking about the mission’s standing.

Keisner informed the FCC that the system’s “constellation design and implementation plan are well-developed, and Amazon continues to mature its satellite design and operational procedures.”

He offered a recap of the specs for the satellite constellation, which were first laid out in April. The plan requires placing 3,236 satellites into three units of orbits, at 590, 610 and 630 kilometers (367, 379 and 391 miles) in altitude.

Keisner stated the satellites could be deployed into an preliminary orbit that’s under the altitude of the Worldwide House Station (roughly 250 miles or 400 kilometers). They’d be given a “complete in-orbit efficiency verification” at the decrease altitude, and solely then could be raised to their operational orbits.

He stated Amazon was working on a satellite design and a system for area situational consciousness that may decrease the hazards related to orbital particles.

“Amazon is designing syb-systems to face up to influence from non-trackable particles with out main fragmentation danger,” Keisner stated. “For instance, Amazon intends to make use of a propulsion system with a chemically inert propellant and is exploring progressive propellant options that may be unpressurized.”

Keisner stated Project Kuiper’s engineers had been nonetheless weighing precisely what sort of propulsion system to make use of. The choices vary from “typical designs utilizing pressurized noble fuel propellant to designs utilizing liquid ionic propellant that may be non-pressurized,” he wrote.

Amazon is conducting checks to determine which system to go together with, he stated.

If a satellite loses contact with floor stations, an automatic deorbit process would kick in. The process requires reducing the orbit under the peak of the Worldwide House Station in two levels, and then sending down the satellite to expend throughout atmospheric re-entry.

“Amazon will coordinate its satellite deorbit actions with NASA usually, and for ISS operations particularly,” Keisner stated.

Different filings word that Amazon representatives have been assembly with the FCC as lately as late final month to debate points regarding the Project Kuiper application, together with Keisner’s letter in addition to the Worldwide Telecommunication Union’s procedures for satellite constellations.

For what it’s value, SpaceX weighed in on Amazon’s application in July, saying that the FCC ought to open a brand new processing spherical to contemplate all of the constellation purposes that focus on the identical Ku/Ka-band that SpaceX has already been approved to make use of.

Hat tip to Mark Harris.

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