With this change the designs are different for these corporations. Where state-owned programs were to show technology demonstration and pushing the frontier for so called mankind’s good, the new design is to seek profits from the space we’ve already conquered. There lies the opportunity and there lies the risk of exploitation. No, I am not a threat monger, neither I am opposed to the idea of science advancing. But there are certain questions that remain with both SpaceX and Amazon’s Project Kuiper.
Is this possible with current tech?
Yes, we have the technology to put multiple satellites in orbit now by a single rocket, (India’s Indian Space Research Organization aka ISRO set a world record by placing 104 Nano-Satellites in orbits by their single rocket in 2018) also placing satellites in multiple orbits (ISRO again did this earlier this month by their PSLV C45 Launch).
At some point of time Amazon will need a space operator to put these satellites in orbits, and with current relationships of Bezos and Musk indicate that SpaceX may not be that partner, though in this financially driven market, foes becoming friends is not uncommon.
I would like to see ISRO stepping in this space and try to woo Amazon to use PSLV as the launch system for the task. PSLV is cost-efficient, proven workhorse and has the capability to do this with minimal rockets to be used. This will massively increase the monetization prospects of ISRO to fund other projects in their arsenal which are awaiting budget approvals like Gaganyaan (Manned space mission), Chandrayaan II (Second Moon Mission) and many more.
Use case in Question?
The purpose stated by Amazon to put an entire Kuiper Constellation of 3,236 satellites is that, this is the network for enabling the high-speed internet across the world. One primary cog in this entire system would be the cell towers on land to receive and propagate the signals that will help the cell phones to utilize the available bandwidth and network. Who will bear the cost of covering the remaining earth landmass with those cell towers. Or we’ll be expecting more balloons in the sky as intermediate signal boosters like what Google has done in Kenya.
From where will this cost be recovered, or the model works under the assumption, that once the network is available, some other corporations will come forward to set up the cell towers and monetize the network thus, in turn, helping Amazon to recover the cost.
Another issue flagged by the scientific community and SpaceVal organization is that the space debris it creates to put all these satellites in place would be very difficult to clean. Also, the density may impact future programs as placing any other satellite means there are so many others that will come under the impact assessment part, making all future satellite launch plans more complicated and thus even non-feasible for new entrants (even countries to get on the space table)
As much as it is exciting to know that projects like these will fasten the space science development towards a new and inspiring direction, it also makes those countries nervous who kick started their individual space programs recently and are only targeting to put their satellites across in next 5-10 years. Finally, Space is waking up to another race which our previous generation saw in 60s and 70s. Nasa’s budget cuts some years back indicated the definitive decline in the space push from even USA, but this may inject a whole new life into the excitement towards the space.
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