Amazon is officially joining the race to create a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that will provide high-speed internet services. The company has filed its first papers with the U.S. government for approval to launch a network of 3,236 satellites.
The initiative, known as Project Kuiper, came into the limelight after tech news company Geek Wire found that Kuiper Systems LLC recently made three sets of filings with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), the international organization in charge of coordinating satellite orbits.
The filings lay out a plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit – including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590km); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610km); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630km) orbits.
“Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” Amazon confirmed in a statement. “This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.”
One astronomer’s name is considered as “the father of modern planetary science,” Gerard Kuiper, Kuiper Systems is the latest foray into space-based internet networking by a U.S. tech giant.
As private companies look to commercialize space, high-speed internet is among the prospects that offer the highest profits in the short term, while providing necessary services to get online the remaining 3.8 billion people who don’t have access to the internet. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has a well-known interest in space after founding private space firm Blue Origin, with the new project being the latest in a string of companies with plans to use a network of thousands of satellites to offer broadband around the world.
SpaceX also has designs on creating a global satellite network, in addition to its leading position as a launch services provider for companies looking to access outer space. In December, the company set out to raise another $500m (£383m) to support its Starlink programme, which would create a network of 11,000 satellites to cover the globe with internet connectivity.
Furthermore, to date, the company has launched just two prototype satellites, despite earlier reports stating that SpaceX projected it would have 400 satellites in orbit by the end of 2018.
Amazon announced it is opening a new office in Manchester as part of plans to create more than 1,000 ‘Silicon Valley’ research and development jobs across the UK.