Nextgov: Laser-Linked Satellites Could Deliver ‘Internet from Space’

 

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Such a network could potentially reach remote and underserved areas.

A new design could double the network capacity of future “internet from space” systems.

Satellites do not yet play a major role in the world’s internet infrastructure. However, this may soon be set to change.

Within the next decade, a new generation of satellites could lay the foundations for an “internet from space,” says Ankit Singla, professor at ETH Zurich’s Network Design & Architecture Lab. His team is investigating how to improve the performance of large-scale computer networks, including the internet.

Exploiting advances in cost-cutting technologies in the space sector, the new satellite systems would use thousands of satellites instead of the tens of satellites used in past systems. Laser light could then link these satellites to each other to form a network.

The coverage these satellites would provide could reach remote regions that currently have no or very limited access to the internet. These regions are either entirely unconnected or poorly connected to the intercontinental fiber-optic cables that power today’s internet.

The ‘Internet from Space’ Race

The capabilities of the LEO satellites have triggered a new, contested “space race,” with heavyweights such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon throwing their hats into the ring. These companies are developing large-scale satellite constellations with thousands to tens of thousands of satellites. These would orbit the Earth at speeds of 27,000 km/h (16,777 mp/h) at a height of around 500 km (around 311 miles) (traditional geostationary satellites orbit at around 35,768 km (22,225 miles).

SpaceX, for example, has already launched its first 120 satellites and is planning to offer a satellite-based broadband internet service from 2020. In addition to global coverage, the technology used in the “internet from space” promises high data transfer rates without major delays in data transmission. The latency, as computer scientists call these delays, is significantly lower than that of geostationary satellites, and even that of underground fiber-optic lines for long-distance communication.

“If these plans succeed, it would be a huge leap forward in the world’s internet infrastructure,” says Debopam Bhattacherjee, a doctoral candidate working with Singla to investigate the optimal design of networks for satellite-based broadband internet in order to guarantee a high-bandwidth, delay-free data flow.

Continue reading this long article HERE.

 

SpaceX Is Lobbying Against Amazon’s Internet-Beaming Satellites

Amazon is trying to get a waiver to FCC rules that companies like SpaceX and OneWeb had to follow.

Motherboard has the details:

When Amazon confirmed it was planning to launch 3,236 broadband internet-beaming satellites into low-Earth orbit, much of the media reported it as if it were a done deal—the latest, inevitable step in the corporation’s quest to conquer commerce, the cloud, and beyond.

Amazon officials said the massive satellite constellation, called Project Kuiper, would one day provide low-latency, high-speed broadband to tens of millions of underserved people around the world, no doubt also connecting them to the wide world of Amazon offerings.

But before Project Kuiper can launch, it must receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission to operate within a certain frequency spectrum. In an application filed this July, Amazon requested a special waiver to FCC rules that would grant it the necessary permission. The problem, though, is that the FCC already handed out licenses to that spectrum years ago to nine other satellite internet companies in a different, more complicated process.

Those companies—including SpaceX and OneWeb—are now lobbying the FCC to deny Amazon’s waiver request, according to FCC records. If successful, they could significantly reduce Project Kuiper’s viability in an already oversaturated market.

Top SpaceX officials have met with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and other agency staff at least three times to lodge in-person complaints about Project Kuiper’s application, according to FCC records. The first meeting came several weeks after Amazon filed its application, the most recent took place on Dec. 2 and 3.

“Amazon’s overt attempt to override long-standing rules would undermine confidence in Commission processes, harm competition, and eliminate broadband options for consumers,” SpaceX lawyers wrote in a Nov. 25 filing. Project Kuiper would have a “significant detrimental impact [on] SpaceX … Amazon’s flawed analysis yields results that defy common sense.”

Industry experts said Amazon’s request is unorthodox, but there’s a clear reason why the company has tried a backdoor route to gain access to the coveted spectrum.

Continue reading HERE

“I’d sort of written Amazon off as not being viable simply because they hadn’t gotten started and these other guys—SpaceX, OneWeb—are already putting satellites up,” Roger Rusch, a satellite and telecommunications consultant with TelAstra told Motherboard. “By the time Amazon gets started, they’re already probably going to be years behind them.

Amazon Is Moving Project Kuiper Satellite Operation to Huge Redmond Facility

GeekWire the details:

Amazon announced today that its Project Kuiper satellite operation has outgrown its current office space, and will move into 219,000 square feet of space that it’s leasing in Redmond, Wash. — the same city where one of its chief rivals, SpaceX, has its own satellite operation.

The new headquarters facility, spread across two buildings, will include offices and design space, research and development labs and prototype manufacturing facilities, Amazon said today in a news release.

“Renovations on the facility are already underway, and the Kuiper team will move into the new site in 2020,” Amazon said.

Kuiper HQ will be in the same locale as Microsoft’s world headquarters, and within about an hour’s drive (on a good day) from the growing HQ for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ other big space venture, Blue Origin, south of Seattle in Kent, Wash.

Redmond Commerce Center, which is about a half-mile from SpaceX’s original Redmond office building, seems the likeliest prospect for Project Kuiper’s headquarters. It has two buildings that were recently leased to new tenants, with a total of just over 219,000 square feet. Renovation work is underway, according to Redmond city records. The property’s parking lot has spaces for 300 vehicles.

One real estate source told GeekWire that the site was being cleaned up this afternoon inside and out, apparently for the new tenants. Amazon would not confirm the location of Kuiper’s Redmond digs, but we’ll update this story with anything further we find out. (And for what it’s worth, SpaceX has moved its Starlink satellite operation a few miles farther out, to Redmond Ridge Corporate Center.)

Continue Reading HERE.

 

CNBC: Why SpaceX And Amazon Are Launching 42,000+ Satellites

Since the start of the space age, more than 8,800 objects have been launched into orbit, according to estimates from the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. But in a few years, that number could increase significantly. Private companies plan to launch thousands of satellites to beam the internet to customers on Earth. SpaceX alone has announced plans to launch 42,000 satellites. If this happens, SpaceX will be responsible for about a fivefold increase in the number of spacecraft launched by all of humanity.

Satellite Mega-Constellations Stir a Debate Over Avoiding Catastrophic Orbital Crashes

GeekWire has the details:

The retired commander of the U.S. Strategic Command says the tens of thousands of satellites that SpaceX, OneWeb and Amazon are planning to put into orbit over the next few years will require a new automated system for space traffic management — and perhaps new satellite hardware requirements as well.

Retired Gen. Kevin Chilton laid out his ideas for dealing with potentially catastrophic orbital traffic jams at the University of Washington on Friday, during the inaugural symposium presented by UW’s Space Policy and Research Center.

“We need to develop technologies that will improve space domain awareness, that will enable autonomous systems onboard satellites to automatically maneuver so as to avoid collision with another satellite, or with a known piece of man-made debris,” he said.

The issue is expected to become increasingly critical as commercial ventures deploy more satellites into low Earth orbit, or LEO, to widen broadband internet access to the billions of people around the world who are currently underserved. An estimated 2,200 active satellites are in orbit today, but if all the plans come to pass, that figure could go beyond 45,000 in the years ahead.

Continue reading HERE.

Money Quote:

Today the Los Angeles Times quoted SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell as saying that the company will take pre-sales for customer service, adopting a strategy that CEO Elon Musk has used for electric cars at Tesla, his other multibillion-dollar venture. Amazon’s Project Kuiper, meanwhile, is likely to follow a different business model: using its satellite data service to boost online sales well as its AWS cloud service, Alexa AI services and Amazon Prime Video.

5G from Space Won’t Solve All Slow Internet Problems, Analysts Warn

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HOUSTON — New phones will get faster internet than ever before thanks to improved 5G technology, but don’t expect to get blazing-quick speed overnight, a panel of analysts warned.

A discussion at space company forum SpaceCom here in late November went over the benefits and drawbacks of 5G, which is already available in limited markets in the United States and will expand even further in 2020. SpaceX and Amazon are among the companies racing into space to deploy satellites to support 5G.

Continue reading HERE

 

Where were the Real Innovators?

Satellite Innovation Symposium has become the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals who follow the evolving technologies and market opportunities related to satellites and space.

Here is what the conference attendees were saying about the LEO companies, according to Wendy Lewis writing in SatMagazine:

How the proposed constellations of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites will impact the industry remains a key question.

There were multiple discussions about the potential for OneWeb, Project Kuiper, Starlink, Telesat LEO, LeoSat and others to succeed and speculation on which might merge with others and which might be left on the drawing board.

Continue reading HERE.

I would like to have overheard some of those conversations and discussions.  If the LEO operates as planned they are going to be taking customers from these MEO and GEO satellite communications innovators. LEOs have a latency advantage they can exploit, with no way for the MEO and GEO systems to match.

The LEO broadband companies are the leading edge innovators, yet they did not exhibit or present at the Symposium “the most important West Coast event for satellite professionals.” Why?  SpaceX is going to launch more satellites than all MEO and GEO sats ever launched. Is SpaceX too busy Innovating to go to conferences where they spend hours talking about innovation?

The Sponsors & Exhibitors are HERE.  Any insight from readers? 

Bank of America: 15 Radical Technologies Will Transform the Future

One of those technologies is LEO satellites:

BofA said nanosatellites could play a crucial role in connecting nearly 41 per cent of the population that is still not connected to the internet. These are small satellites providing more affordable access to space and universal satellite internet access.

The global nano and microsatellite market is set to grow at a 22.2 per cent compound annual growth rate over the next six years from $1.3bn in 2018 to $5.2bn in 2025.

Tech giant Amazon has already applied for permission to launch 3,236 satellites and it would positively impact the fields of space, military, telecoms, communications, science and remote sensing.

I guess BofA does not know about the SpaceX StarLink and OneWeb satellites that are in orbit.  Both companies have a robust launch schedule for the next two years.

The full article is HERE

Amazon Exec Dave Limp Expects Project Kuiper Satellites to Boost Sales and Cloud

Here’s how Limp explained the business case at the GeekWire Summit:

“There are lots of places on Earth that are incredibly well-served by wireless. But when you map it out, and we have done this pretty carefully, there are lots of blank spots. And by the way, immediately your mind goes, ‘Oh, well, there’s a big blank spot in sub-Saharan Africa.’ You don’t have to go that far.

“You just have to go to Eastern Washington, and you can find lots of areas where connectivity is very difficult to get. And if you do have connectivity, it’s not the connectivity that we’re now beginning to take for granted. It’s running off legacy copper, in many instances, or off satellite systems that, because of the constraints on how to get things to space, have very long latency and lower bandwidth.

“If you think about Amazon and what we want to do in the future, we want everybody connected. A, it’s good for society, and B, it also will be good for Amazon. Obviously, more people can shop, which we like, and more people can get access to things like Alexa, and more developers can get access to things like AWS.

“So, connectivity is kind of a primitive, first and foremost, but it’s getting close to a human right. If you were writing a new Bill of Rights today, you might put connectivity in it. It’s close to that. [There are] lots of things small companies can do. They’re nimble, they’re in a garage, they can invent super-fast. [But] there are some things that, for bigger companies — it’s on our shoulders to solve. This is an example of one of those.

“To solve that connectivity … on a global basis, we’re going to have to put 3,236 satellites up. That’s going to take billions and billions of dollars of capital. And by the way, it’s high risk. We’ve got a lot of invention ahead of us. But I like that we’re willing to take on the responsibility for trying to do that. I think we can also turn it into a good business. That’s not lost on us. But when you can get the overlap of the Venn diagrams of “good businesses” with “greater good,” those are the things you want to work on.

“Kindle was that way for me. That’s why I came to Amazon. If we can help with literacy and reading in the world, and also turn it into a pretty good business, that’s a good job to have.”

Full GeekWire article HERE.

Note: Amazon looks at Project Kuiper as just another segment of their sales infrastructure.  This is a strategic advantage.