Amazon Launches Test Satellites In Challenge To Elon Musk Starlink

Amazon successfully launched two satellites on Friday, marking a move to provide internet access from space and compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink service. The satellites took off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 2:06 pm local time (6:06 pm GMT), with the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, handling the launch, according to a report by AFP. Jeff Bezos, the Founder of Amazon, explained that Project Kuiper aims to deliver fast and affordable broadband to underserved communities worldwide, utilizing a constellation of over 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO).

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Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, emphasized the extensive testing conducted in their lab and expressed confidence in the satellite design. Amazon has committed a $10 billion investment to the project and secured 77 heavy-lift launches with commercial providers Arianespace, ULA, and Blue Origin, the latter being owned by Jeff Bezos.

The first operational satellites for the Kuiper project are expected to launch in early 2024, with initial tests involving customers anticipated at the end of the following year, according to Amazon reports. The recent test focused on establishing contact between the satellites and Earth, deploying solar panels, and confirming the proper operation of all instruments at desired temperatures, as reported by AFP. These satellite-based services aim to provide internet access to remote and underserved areas globally, including regions affected by conflicts or disasters. Amazon’s entry into space-based internet follows Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which launched the first batch of Starlink satellites in 2019, establishing itself as a major player in the industry.

The deployment of a “megaconstellation” consisting of thousands of satellites has raised concerns among scientists. Some astronomers are proposing restrictions on the number of low-altitude satellites to mitigate light pollution and protect the capacity to study celestial phenomena. Addressing these concerns, a conference organized by the International Astronomical Union this week acknowledged the substantial potential benefits to humanity while recognizing the associated drawbacks. Striking a balance between the advantages and concerns linked to large satellite constellations, particularly their impact on the night sky, is a key focus of ongoing discussions in the scientific community.

The assertion about Musk’s ownership of Starlink causing an uproar in Ukraine last month, along with claims that he refused to activate the service for a planned attack by Kyiv forces on Russia’s Black Sea navy fleet last year, appears to be unsubstantiated and not aligned with the information available up to my last knowledge update in September 2021. As of my last update, there were no reports of such events involving Elon Musk and Starlink.