The first two prototype satellites from Project Kuiper, the internet-from-space venture from the e-commerce giant, are scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of 2022, Amazon announced on Monday. That will formally kick off its competition with SpaceX, the space company owned by Elon Musk, and OneWeb, among other rivals, for beaming high-speed internet connections to customers from low Earth orbit. It will also be a crucial test of the satellites’ design before the company launches thousands more devices into orbit.
Amazon first announced its goal of deploying a constellation of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit in 2019. This was the second pursuit in space by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and former chief executive who also owns Blue Origin, the rocket company. A handful of other firms are also racing to offer high-speed internet to governments, other companies and consumers whose access is hampered by the digital divide in remote locations.
Like SpaceX, Amazon plans to spend $10 billion on the project, which sits within its devices unit. But the company has been slower to start than SpaceX, whose Falcon 9 rockets have lofted nearly 2,000 internet-beaming satellites into orbit for its own venture, Starlink. Thousands of customers are testing the SpaceX service for $99 a month with $499 antenna kits.
The 400 richest Americans added $4.5tn to their wealth last year, a 40% rise, even as the pandemic shuttered large parts of the US, according to Forbes magazine’s latest tally of the country’s richest people.
The Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, retained top spot for a fourth consecutive year with a net worth of $201bn, followed by Elon Musk of Tesla and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, with net worths of $190.5bn and $134.5bn respectively.
The ranks of the super rich were swollen by 44 newcomers, the highest number since 2007, among them Melinda French Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, bitcoin billionaires Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of the Covid-19 vaccine maker Moderna.