Earth seen from space. Photo: NASA

The FCC has given conditional approval for Amazon to move ahead with its plan to launch thousands of internet-beaming satellites to low-Earth orbit.

The big picture: Multiple companies, including SpaceX, see the potential to make millions of dollars in revenue once their constellations are fully deployed.

What's happening: The FCC approved Amazon's plans for a 3,236-satellite constellation called Project Kuiper with the stipulation that the company needs to launch the first half of its constellation by 2026 and it must be complete by 2029.

  • The commission's approval is also contingent on Amazon submitting an updated plan for how it will reduce its risk of creating orbital debris with its constellation.
  • Amazon announced last week that it will invest $10 billion in Project Kuiper in part to help address high-speed internet access issues that many in the U.S. are facing today.
  • "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," Dave Limp, senior vice president at Amazon, said in a statement.

Where it stands: Amazon is behind SpaceX in deploying hardware, with SpaceX's Starlink constellation already boasting more than 500 satellites in orbit so far, but the Jeff Bezos-backed company's large investment in Kuiper could help them catch up.

Yes, but: There are major risks involved in developing and deploying these constellations.

  • OneWeb — one of the first companies aiming to build a satellite network like this — filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after it wasn't able to raise the funds it needed.
  • It's also not yet clear if the market exists to support more than one of these constellations.
  • Experts have also expressed concern that these small satellites could clutter up low-Earth orbit, increasing the likelihood of creating more space junk that could pose risks to other satellites.

Go deeper

Amazon defends working with oil companies to reach its zero-carbon goal

Kara Hurst in Seattle.

Partnering with oil and gas producers is necessary for Amazon and other companies to achieve their climate goals, the tech giant's chief of sustainability, Kara Hurst, said during an Axios virtual event on Thursday.

The big picture: Amazon aims to hit carbon neutrality in 2040, 10 years earlier than the Paris climate accord. The company plans to reach its goal in part by helping companies develop climate-friendly technologies through a $2 billion venture fund. The first recipients were announced on Thursday.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

Why Amazon committed $2 billion to fund clean energy technology

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Matt Peterson, a senior Amazon exec, joined the "Axios Re:Cap" podcast to explain the thinking behind the tech and commerce giant's climate venture capital fund, which rolled out its first investments on Thursday.

Why it matters: The fund, $2 billion to start, is beginning to invest on the heels of Amazon's late 2019 pledge to be net-zero emissions by 2040.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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