WASHINGTON – Amazon announced further details of its plan to deploy 3,236 broadband satellites and told US telecoms regulators that the constellation could operate in limited areas with less than one-fifth of the total constellation.
Amazon's Kuiper System satellites have a lifespan of seven years – less than half the life of a traditional geostationary communication satellite – and will ship in five waves, according to a report filed with the US Federal Communications Commission on July 4 started.
The first wave consists of 578 satellites providing Internet services in two horizontal coverage bands, one between 39 ° North and 56 ° North (approximately from Philadelphia North to Moscow) and another between 39 ° South and 56 ° South (approximately of Hastings, New Zealand, as far as the tip of the South Sandwich Islands in the Atlantic). The next four waves would fill the equator.
Amazon did not specify when these satellites would start or by which carrier they would enter orbit. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also owns the launch company Blue Origin, whose New Glenn orbital rocket is scheduled for its first launch in 2021
The Kuiper System of Amazon was unveiled in April by a submission with a United Nations agency called the International Telecommunication Union. This submission, first reported by Geekwire contained little information about the number of satellites and their intended orbits.
The ITU coordinates the spectrum to prevent interference between different communication systems on a global scale. The FCC regulates communication in the US. As the US is the license country of Amazon, the agency is also tasked with the approval of the launch and operation of the Kuiper system.
Markets and Infrastructure
Amazon's Kuiper system is focused on connecting "tens of millions of unearned and under-earned consumers and businesses in the US and around the world."
Consumer demand is considered to be Amazon's largest market, although it is often considered the most difficult to capture with a mega-constellation due to low-cost terminal requirements. Amazon told the FCC that consumer demand for broadband services "far exceeds the potential capacity of any previously proposed system, including Amazon's Kuiper system." SpaceX also has consumer broadband as the main focus for its Starlink constellation of up to 12,000 satellites, as does OneWeb with its constellation of 650 to 2,000 satellites. Both have first satellites in orbit.
Amazon said that the Kuiper system will also target transportation systems such as aircraft, boats and land vehicles. This makes the constellation a competitor to other proposed low-earth orbit systems, such as Telesat and LeoSat, which do not focus on consumer broadband.
To cover the full range of markets, the Kuiper system will, according to Amazon, rely on a user-terminal mix that includes flat, electronically controlled phased array antennas and mechanically controlled parabolic antennas. According to Amazon, Kuiper system satellites are equipped with Ka-band phased array antennas to form reprogrammable spot beams connected to the user terminals on the ground.
Amazon has provided the resources to implement the Kuiper system, including global computer infrastructure, intercontinental fiber links, and data centers. The company cited Amazon Web Services, which in May activated a satellite ground station business as evidence of its experience in developing advanced technologies. Amazon also mentioned Amazon Prime Air's delivery-via-drone project and its autonomous package delivery project Amazon Scout, but did not say whether or how they would fit together with the Kuiper system.
Plans to Reduce and Desorb Rubble
If a Kuiper System satellite goes down, it would naturally desorb within a maximum of 10 years, according to Amazon's forecasts.
The Kuiper system calls for three "shells" of satellites, all of which are located at the bottom of the Earth's nearby orbits – 590 kilometers, 610 kilometers and 630 kilometers. Because of its proximity to the earth, Amazon predicts that dead satellites would naturally degenerate on average between five and seven years.
If a satellite loses contact with ground stations after a "set wait", it will automatically shut down, according to Amazon. During this decommissioning, the orbit is lowered, then the batteries are discharged, the fuel lines and tanks emptied and the charging circuits "permanently shut down or fused" to avoid the risk of a surprising recharging.
Satellites that are actively disposed of should be de Amazon said that his "design goal" in the Kuiper system is to use a "non-explosive, non-explosive fuel storage" for a chemically inert fuel. The company said it is working with the US Air Force's Combined Space Operations Center on security issues, including constellation design and maneuvering plans. According to Amazon, companies sensitizing to the situation of commercial space are also involved in this effort.
Amazon plans to launch production satellites at a height below the International Space Station and perform system reviews before the satellites are launched into their destination orbit.
While this could alleviate concerns about the safety of people in orbit, Amazon's Kuiper system could raise concerns about constellation collisions. The lowest shell of the Amazon constellation would revolve only 40 kilometers over a layer of the SpaceX-Starlink constellation.
In April, the FCC approved SpaceX plans to operate approximately 1,600 satellites over 550 kilometers. The Kuiper system would have the lowest 784 satellites orbiting the earth at 590 kilometers, as planned. Another 1,296 Kuiper System satellites would travel 20 kilometers higher at 610 kilometers, followed by the remaining 1,156 satellites, another 20 kilometers higher at 630 kilometers.
OneWeb has argued for a 125-kilometer separation zone between constellations to avoid collisions of spacecraft.
Amazon told the FCC that a 40-kilometer gap between the constellations "allows for potential variability in orbital station control techniques that can exist between different satellite operators."