FCC tells Amazon it can go ahead with $10bn Project Kuiper
The US telecoms regulator has approved Amazon’s $10 billion plan to start work on its 3,236 Project Kuiper satellites.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided that Amazon now satisfies its earlier requirement to reduce the likelihood of orbital debris.
Julie Zoller (pictured), the head of global regulatory affairs for Project Kuiper, welcomed the news. In a post of LinkedIn she said: “Space safety is a core tenet for the Kuiper team, and we’re committed to operating safely and responsibly in space. Our orbital debris mitigation plans demonstrate the Kuiper System is designed to meet or exceed all requirements set forth by the FCC.”
Zoller added: “We are pleased that the commission has granted our application and we appreciate the coordination to ensure the industry is prioritizing safety.”
Project Kuiper will compete with SpaceX’s existing Starlink satellites, capacity on which is sold directly to end uses. Amazon has not yet disclosed whether it will adopt a wholesale model – comparable with OneWeb, which is working via existing telcos – or Starlink’s.
However, the company has started making contact with the industry. There was at least one Project Kuiper executive at last year’s International Telecoms Week conference in the US, though he declined to speak to Capacity.
The FCC, in its ruling, said Kuiper must launch 50% of the low Earth orbit satellites – that is, 1,618 – by the end of July 2026 and put them into service, and the rest by the end of July 2029.
Amazon plans the satellites to be in orbit for seven years, and the FCC has told the company to ensure each of the satellites has enough fuel to avoid collisions and to de-orbit itself at the end of service. It must also “mitigate the impact of its satellites on optical ground-based astronomy”, says the regulator.
Amazon has already started to make the satellites at a factory in Washington state.
The first two, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will be launched by United Launch Alliance on its new Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year.