The Federal Communications Commission has dealt a blow to Starlink, approving Amazon’s Kuiper satellite plans.
Kuiper is the satellite internet constellation Amazon is deploying, in direct competition with SpaceX’s Starlink. SpaceX wanted the FCC to limit the number of satellites Amazon could deploy.
In an ex parte letter, SpaceX argues that the Commission should limit Kuiper to deploy only 578 satellites in its 630 kilometer orbital shell, and defer action regarding the remainder of the constellation.
The FCC rejected SpaceX’s demands and accepted Amazon’s proposed “orbital debris mitigation plan,” clearing the way for the company to begin launching its satellites.
Specifically, we grant Kuiper’s request for approval of its updated orbital debris mitigation plan, thereby satisfying a condition of our action in 2020 conditionally granting Kuiper’s request to deploy and operate its NGSO system. Our action will allow Kuiper to begin deployment of its constellation in order to bring high-speed broadband connectivity to customers around the world.
In granting this modification, we have considered the issues raised by interested parties in the record. These issues include, but are not limited to, collision risk, post-mission disposal reliability, completion of satellite design, and orbital separation. To address these and other issues, we require Kuiper to comply with a series of conditions, as outlined below. We adopt requirements for Kuiper to report mitigation actions taken to avoid collisions in space and to coordinate and collaborate with NASA to ensure continued availability of launch windows and on other matters.
It is unclear exactly when Amazon will begin launching satellites, although previous reports indicated it would be sometime in 2023.