Amazon gets a green light to launch 3,000-satellite Kuiper constellation

Amazon has received the go-ahead to construct a constellation of 3,236 satellites after gaining approval for an updated orbital debris mitigation plan.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the U.S. main telecommunications services regulator, approved Amazon’s Project Kuiper plan in an authorization adopted and released (opens in new tab)on Feb. 8.

“Our action will allow Kuiper to begin deployment of its constellation in order to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to customers around the world,” the FCC document read.

Amazon previously received conditional approval from the FCC for its Project Kuiper plan back in 2020. The company has now satisfied conditions including a plan to address issues of collision risk, post-mission disposal reliability, completion of satellite design, and orbital separation.

The plan addressed concerns from other satellite operators and organizations including Viasat and SpaceX, Via Satellite (opens in new tab) reported. Amazon will also need to provide semi-annual conjunction and space debris reports.

The 3,236 Kuiper satellites will have a seven-year operational lifetime and orbit at altitudes of roughly 365 miles, 380 miles and 390 miles (590 kilometers, 610 km and 630 km respectively) and operate in Ka-band radio frequencies. 

The post-mission disposal plan involves lowering the perigee of the satellite to about 220 miles (350 km), an altitude at which Earth’s atmosphere would result in drag that would see the satellite’s orbit decay within a year, SpaceNews (opens in new tab) reports.

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The decision clears the way for what will be intense work to get the constellation deployed and operational. The FCC approval stipulates that 50% of the satellites must be launched by the end of July 2026, and the rest of the constellation by mid 2029. 

Last August Amazon booked up to 83 launches to carry Kuiper satellites into orbit. Up to 37 of these will fly on the New Glenn rocket developed by Blue Origin, a company which, like Amazon, was founded by Jeff Bezos, with another 38 flights using United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket, which uses Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine. A further 18 launches will be conducted by Arianespace’s Ariane 6.


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