Amazon launching internet satellites next year to take on Elon Musk’s Starlink

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It's taken Jeff Bezos and Amazon a while, but he's set to launch his first two Project Kuiper satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022. 

As reported by the New York Times, Project Kuiper's 2022 launch will put it head-to-head with Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet service. It will be the first test of its new orbiting units before it plans to launch thousands more in a bid to control the low-Earth orbit satellite internet market.

Amazon has been behind in its launch of Project Kuiper satellites. At first, the company had planned to launch 3,236 low-Earth orbit satellites in 2019. Two years later, and the company has launched none. By comparison, SpaceX has been able to put nearly 2,000 satellites into orbit, offering near-global satellite internet to its users. Right now SpaceX plans to launch 12,000 satellites by 2030 and wants to eventually bring that number to 42,000. Although, Starlink speeds have started to wane slightly. 

SpaceX and Amazon aren't the only companies trying to get satellite internet constellations quite literally off the ground. So is OneWeb, Boeing, Telesat, as well as programs by the Russian and Chinese governments. 

Amazon plans to spend $10 billion, and will launch its first two satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat- 2, via ABL Space Systems, a company that aims to launch smaller objects into space for a more affordable price.

For Amazon, the goal is to make satellite internet as affordable as possible. With Starlink, users have to pay $500 for the satellite dish. Each dish costs SpaceX $1,500 to produce. In Amazon's case, there's consideration being made in giving the antennae away to customers for free. 

SpaceX is also angling after the higher-end market with Starlink Premium. This $500 monthly service will offer speeds of up to 500 Mbps.  

Unfortunately, the rush to get satellites into low-Earth orbit is causing concern among astronomers. Not only could a collision in space lead to thousands of pieces of space debris flying around at high speed, the high reflectivity of Starlink's satellites is causing issues for telescopes on Earth.

To be able to stargaze effectively, it takes massive telescopes on Earth to observe areas of deep space in a long exposure setting. Having a reflective satellite float in the middle of a long exposure shot could completely ruin the ability to capture distant galaxies. It's something SpaceX has tried to address by making its satellites less reflective, although it's not a perfect solution.

Either way, private satellite companies, space agencies and scientists will need to work together to find a solution to both providing fast internet access to everyone around the world while also not inhibiting critical research. But given how quickly companies are moving to catch up to Starlink, that conversation might be pushed out of focus. 

Imad Khan

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.