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Astro Bob: Amazon's Project Kuiper will place 3,236 more satellites in orbit

"Astro" Bob King is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Read more of his work at astrobob.areavoices.com.

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SpaceX launched its 10th Starlink satellite mission on Aug. 7. The frame-grab taken shortly before launch shows the fairing that sits atop the Falcon 9 rocket. Folded inside are 57 Starlink plus two BlackSky Global Earth-observation satellites. (SpaceX)

Early this month SpaceX launched an additional 57 Starlink satellites into orbit for a total of 595. It’s the company’s 10th mission since 2019 with many more to follow. When complete, at least 3,200 satellites will circle the planet with the goal of providing a subscription global internet service. SpaceX is currently moving to beta testing, with service expected for areas of the northern U.S. and Canada by year’s end.

The FCC has also approved SpaceX’s request for 1 million terminals that subscribers would use to connect to the Starlink “constellation” overhead. The package is expected to cost around $80 per month with a $100-300 installation fee. Not cheap.

Not to be outdone, Amazon has their own satellite-based internet service planned. The FCC has unanimously approved the company’s Project Kuiper , which will allow Amazon to send 3,236 satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Similar to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, Kuiper’s will provide “high-speed broadband connectivity” to homes and businesses in remote areas of the U.S. and across the world. Amazon expects to deploy half of its satellites by 2026, with the entire constellation in place by July 30, 2029.

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“We have heard so many stories lately about people who are unable to do their job or complete schoolwork because they don’t have reliable internet at home,” said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon. “There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap.”

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Multiple constellations of satellites are planned for Low Earth Orbit to provide faster and better internet access across the planet. ESA

The service will be deployed in five phases with service to begin once the first 578 satellite are in orbit. Companies planning to launch constellations must also have a plan for preventing space debris and a way to dispose of satellites that reach the end of their operating lifetime.

According to the FCC authorization Kuiper proposes to de-orbit satellites in no more than 355 days following completion of their mission, a shorter time frame than the 25-year standard established by NASA. Because the satellite design is incomplete and the debris mitigation plan still needs work the FCC authorization is conditional pending more details from the company.

Thanks to the outcry from professional astronomers SpaceX has worked to dim the Starlinks by using a visor to hide the satellites’ shiniest parts. This to lessen the impact they have on astronomical observations of the night sky. A single satellite tested the visor during a June launch. All 57 Starlinks sent up today were equipped with the sunshade. It’s unclear if Amazon’s satellites will pose a similar problem or not.

To find out if you can see the current batch of Starlinks, visit Heavens Above , locate your city (link in the upper right of the page) then click on the blue link Starlink Passes for all Objects from a Launch.

Related Topics: SCIENCE AND NATURE
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