News Amazon Seeks Permission to Launch 3,326 Internet Satellites

Jul 7, 2019
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Wow, such excellent reporting... /s
Not a mention that SpaceX is already starting to launch a constellation with the same goals, really?
And not made clear that this is a project of Jeff Bezos, as is Blue Origin. Both are his companies, they can't get closer together, but this is a way to get Amazon money directly into Blue Origin's Bank accounts lol

It really sounds like either this author isn't familiar with the subject, or is specifically trying to avoid mentioning SpaceX, or that Blue Origin and Amazon are sister companies already working together. Kinda wierd, and very poor reporting quality.
 
Jul 7, 2019
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Nobody forces you to read ot
The low hanging fruit is that nobody forces you to spell it properly lol

The more intellectual fruit is that Tom's Hardware has always been a reliable source of information, and this is just shoddy work that does not do their reputation justice.
 

bit_user

Splendid
Herald
And not made clear that this is a project of Jeff Bezos, as is Blue Origin.
Huh? The article specifically says:
Project Kuiper could potentially bring Amazon closer to Blue Origin, the space exploration company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, should they collaborate on the satellite network.
Both are his companies, they can't get closer together,
Amazon is a publicly-traded company. Certainly, Bezos has a lot of influence over its actions, but it's not "his", nor does he have the majority of voting shares. Because of this, Bezos can't simply order Amazon to work with Blue Origin - he would need to go through a fair bidding process, or else he could be subject to civil and criminal prosecution.

Data on the funding of Blue Origin seems less forthcoming. In that case, it's safe to say that Bezos probably owns a controlling-stake. So, it's not a stretch to say it's "his". If he has no other investors to worry about, then he could personally subsidize the project from Blue Origin's side, so that it could out-compete any rival bids on the project. He'd still have to convince the board, but that shouldn't be too hard.

It really sounds like either this author isn't familiar with the subject, or is specifically trying to avoid mentioning SpaceX, or that Blue Origin and Amazon are sister companies already working together. Kinda wierd, and very poor reporting quality.
It really sounds like you didn't read the article, completely. Kinda weird, and very poor commenting quality.
 
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bit_user

Splendid
Herald
Project Kuiper ...
I realize they could've named it after Kuiper, the astronomer, however it immediately brings to mind the Kuiper Belt.

Unfortunately, I expect it will more resemble an Oort cloud than the Kuiper Belt. Let's hope it's not as fertile a source of projectiles (i.e. comets) as the Oort cloud...

From what I've heard, plans to track and manage these large constellations of micro-satellites are presently lagging the deployment plans. If space debris gets out of hand, it could ruin space for everyone.
 
Jul 7, 2019
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Huh? The article specifically says:



Amazon is a publicly-traded company. Certainly, Bezos has a lot of influence over its actions, but it's not "his", nor does he have the majority of voting shares. Because of this, Bezos can't simply order Amazon to work with Blue Origin - he would need to go through a fair bidding process, or else he could be subject to civil and criminal prosecution.

Data on the funding of Blue Origin seems less forthcoming. In that case, it's safe to say that Bezos probably owns a controlling-stake. So, it's not a stretch to say it's "his". If he has no other investors to worry about, then he could personally subsidize the project from Blue Origin's side, so that it could out-compete any rival bids on the project. He'd still have to convince the board, but that shouldn't be too hard.


It really sounds like you didn't read the article, completely. Kinda weird, and very poor commenting quality.
Yes, I read the article, and yes, in an odd way he indicated a relationship between the two, kind of like saying, Bob is the son of Jeff, who might get closer to Sue, who has Jeff as her father.
It's accurate, but downplays the relationship and Is just an odd way to word it.

Jeff is the shareholder with the highest percentage of shares, and while not a majority, gives him a lot of direct influence, but that's a minor point compared to the fact that he is, and always has been, the driving force behind Amazon, and if Amazon is proposing this project, it means that Jeff is behind it, and when he presented it to the Board, it would have included working with Blue Origin.
To say that anyone other than Jeff is behind the project, or that BO wasn't part of the plan from the beginning, is just ridiculous.
And no, there is no law that a company has to put bids out for everything, especially not between sister companies. That's a requirement among government contracts and such, but the only requirement for a publicly traded company is that it is in the best interest of the shareholders.

Also, there is the issue of trade secrets and proprietary information, and by keeping it all in-house, they get a better competitive advantage, even if costs might be a little higher.

Now, Blue Origin.
Jeff funds it to the tune of about a billion dollars per year out of pocket. It's his company. And he may have some other investors too, but they would be people on board with his plans and if not, he could buy them out in a heart beat.

So when he goes to the Amazon board and tells them his plans for space internet, using BO rockets, and lays out the costs, and what BO will contribute (probably a lot more than just launch services, they would probably be building the satellites as well, for much less than any Old Space contractor, because he doesn't have to make a big profit), they are probably going to approve it, because he has shown that his ideas are worth following. (though BO still has to show some actual flights, and working engines, but that's a different topic lol)

And I also noticed that you didn't say anything about the total lack of mention of SpaceX as the main competitor, with satellites already being launched. Any defense of that? Lol
 

bit_user

Splendid
Herald
And no, there is no law that a company has to put bids out for everything,
No, not a law requiring a bidding process, but Bezos stands to gain as a major investor of Blue Origin. Therefore, he should not be involved in the vendor selection, from Amazon's side, because it's a conflict of interest. I'm no expert on securities law or anti-corruption legislation, but I'd be surprised if failing to do so wouldn't violate some statute. And if he cuts Amazon bad deal to favor Blue Origin, he'd certainly expose Amazon to lawsuits by shareholders.

especially not between sister companies.
Please define "sister companies", in this context, and explain why that makes any legal difference.

keeping it all in-house,
If they're independent companies, then it's not in-house.

And I also noticed that you didn't say anything about the total lack of mention of SpaceX as the main competitor, with satellites already being launched. Any defense of that? Lol
Yes, the article would've been more complete, had it mentioned SpaceX' StarLink plan. Why does it merit a "Lol", if I don't take issue with all of your points?

If you're fishing for an affirmation, there you have it.
 

derekullo

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Jan 25, 2009
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Might as well attach infrared/visible light cameras to each satellite.

Then he could provide the Internet to all parts of the globe and have surveillance of all parts of the globe as well.

Save all video recordings for a week and use it to combat crime.

Reminds me of an article a read a few years ago, but on a much larger scale.

 

bit_user

Splendid
Herald
Might as well attach infrared/visible light cameras to each satellite.

Then he could provide the Internet to all parts of the globe and have surveillance of all parts of the globe as well.

Save all video recordings for a week and use it to combat crime.
Hmmm... maybe give some thought to the resolution you'd need to do this. You'd probably need at least 1 pixel per square foot and a framerate of at least 1 fps. At that resolution, a standing person would be only half a dozen pixels, at most.

If we take just the USA, the land area is about 3.8 million mi^2, with a mi^2 being about 27.9 million ft^2. So, just storing surveillance on the US would involve capturing about 106 quadrillion pixels per second.

This poses a few interesting problems. First: the cameras. If 1/10th of the satellites were used to cover the USA, then you'd have to capture and process about 327 trillion pixels per second, per satellite. AFAIK, the largest commodity image sensors are about 50 MPix, requiring 6.53 million sensors per satellite. And that assumes they'd have no overlap, which they certainly would.

Next, let's look at what it'd take to process so much data. The NVENC engine, in Nvidia's Turing GPUs can compress about 740 MPix per second, in H.264. So, you'd need about 443 k Tesla T4 GPUs per satellite. Of course, these GPUs aren't hardened for satellite use, but let's leave that aside. Each of these burns 50 - 75 Watts, but let's take the low end of that range. So, you'd need at least 22 Megawatts of solar power generation, per satellite. If someone is familiar with the area-efficiency of the PV tech used in satellites, feel free to contribute an area estimate for the requisite panels. I think it's safe to say it'd be large.

Now, a quick aside: we think of space debris as highly-destructive macro-particles - paint chips an bigger. However, there's a lot of microscopic dust up there, as well. This stuff has a sort of corrosive (or, to be more accurate, perhaps erosive) effect, leading to decreasing power generation efficiency and localized failures, over time. Also, the more big satellites you have up there, the more targets for the larger space debris. Elon Musk says his StarLink satellites will be equipped with propulsion to help them dodge debris, but I think you're talking about some serious size and weight to equip these proposed camera platforms with such propulsion.

Finally, let's talk about the transmission and storage of all this data. Even 100:1 compression would mean about 100 GB/sec per satellite, assuming we start with 24 bits per pixel. I don't know anything about microwave communications, but I'll go out on a limb and say that's probably 2-3 orders of magnitude above their transmission capacity. And, on the ground, you've got to store that 3.18 petabytes per second, which would fill 318 10 TB HDDs per second. That's 27 thousand enterprise disks (costing in the ballpark of $500, each), per day of video you want to store. Not to mention the cost of hosting and running them. If we assume the datacenter & server overhead brings it to about $1000 per disk, then storage for a week of video would be in the realm of $192 M.

So, this is many orders of magnitude beyond the realm of feasibility. An interesting thought experiment, but absurd in the extreme.

Now, if we restrict the surveillance just to densely-populated areas, you could probably lop about 3 orders of magnitude off those numbers, bringing it closer to the realm of feasibility for a similarly-sized network of dedicated surveillance satellites. Even for a DoD-level budget, it would still be quite a stretch. The reality is that spy satellites are just not cut out for such wide-area surveillance. You just can't watch everywhere, all at once.

One parting thought: what would you propose to do about overcast conditions or night time? If you do a pixel-level zoom on the raw image from a 50 MPix sensor, it's quite noisy, even in good light. If you take long exposures to deal with nighttime, then any moving objects are going to be blurry smudges. And thermal imaging won't save you, because thermal image sensors are way lower-resolution (and much more expensive) than optical.

BTW, feel free to check my math. I did this rather quickly, but I'm quite sure any errors I might've made didn't have much effect on the conclusion. I was fairly conservative on compression, but remember that the quality has to be good enough for the fully zoomed-in images to be useful.
 
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bit_user

Splendid
Herald
A couple key points, from this article:
  • They monitored only a 10-sq mile area.
  • They relied on live zooming, to view events of interest.
  • The fact that they had to zoom means their native resolution wasn't high enough to simultaneously record everything they might want to see.
  • The article has a quote containing a bizarre claim that they can't see in pools. Of course they can see in pools, if the water is calm!
  • The trial happened in 2012, so camera technology has obviously improved.
I'd be a lot more concerned about police drones than satellites. If a police department wants to put up a spy satellite over its city, they have to use a distant (i.e. expensive), geo-synchronous orbit. Even then, if they're not near the equator, then it would take multiple satellites.

So, do look to the skies, but a lot nearer than low-orbit.
 
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derekullo

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I thought about ignoring all areas more than 20 miles off of any coast since its mostly just empty water, but then I realized that empty open ocean video probably compress really since well its mostly all the same thing, I'm sure some algorithm can do it. GO GO GADGET AI PHOTO RECOGNITION
I'm sure this could be applied to numerous biomes with repetitive features, fields of grass ... unless something comes into that field of grass.

I guess a byproduct of this would be places with bad/overcast weather would tend to be higher in crime since criminals could hope its too cloudy to be seen.

People would be more cautious on cloudy days.
Some may even stay home ... School has been canceled due to a higher than 50% chance of rain.

Arizona would be free of crime.
The Amazon ironically not so much.

$192 Million a week or about 10 Billion a year is a lot but is feasible for some/most governments to fund especially with the savings that would be reaped from said monitoring and I'm assuming they could target areas they deem most essential with more/better surveillance or not record areas they just have no interest in.

Even then you could split the cost between countries since you don't need every country launching satelites for their own earth monitoring program, unless they want to ...

The US military budget for 2018 was 686 Billion, but this is of course a best case example since the US was #1 in military spending.
For comparison Canada spends about 25 Billion on defense/military
Brazil's 30 Billion.

And of course once you have a recording of the last day/week of Earth you can now sell that data to (laws that need to be written) but lets say other countries, Luxembourg would pay much less than China due to its much smaller size.

You could theoretically watch the coca plant being harvested in Columbia, refined into stuff I'm not sure I can say on the forums, shipped on plane to the US and air dropped into a marsh. (Would have made the American Made movie much shorter)

Even if we do a single day of video then its only $27 million a day. 192/7

Somebody hits your car in the parking lot and drives away ... no problem file an amazon police report within a day and have them rewind time to catch who did it. (Teslas already do this)

Somebody mugs you on the subway ... well you should rode an above ground method of transportation.

The science part may need more research but from a cost perspective of at least storing the data we just captured which when I first thought about it would have been the most difficult part this appears to be very feasible.
 

bit_user

Splendid
Herald
I thought about ignoring all areas more than 20 miles off of any coast
Just so we're clear: my numbers assumed using 10% of the satellites to monitor the continental US, only. So, whatever problem you're trying to solve, it's not even one I posed.

then I realized that empty open ocean video probably compress really since well its mostly all the same thing, I'm sure some algorithm can do it. GO GO GADGET AI PHOTO RECOGNITION
I'm sure this could be applied to numerous biomes with repetitive features, fields of grass ... unless something comes into that field of grass.
Sure, there are opportunities to improve compression or find objects of interest, but you need to scale the compute needed to do that. This whole thing boils down to a problem of scale. That's what I spent a good chunk of time & typing trying to explain.

Just the cameras, alone, are really insurmountable. And any compression needed to fit the imagery to the available downlink bandwidth would have to happen on the satellite, which compounds the size & power problems.

I guess a byproduct of this would be places with bad/overcast weather would tend to be higher in crime since criminals could hope its too cloudy to be seen.

People would be more cautious on cloudy days.
Some may even stay home ... School has been canceled due to a higher than 50% chance of rain.
If you read my whole post, I indeed touched on this, as well as nighttime. I guess you can hope criminals don't go out at night, but I wouldn't count on it.

$192 Million a week or about 10 Billion a year is a lot but is feasible for some/most governments
Yeah, I was thinking the on-ground storage is probably one of the least challenging aspects. That shouldn't be surprising, really.

Even then you could split the cost between countries since you don't need every country launching satelites for their own earth monitoring program, unless they want to ...
Again, my numbers were for US only. So, if you want more coverage, scale appropriately.

you can now sell that data
There are already private companies with their own satellites (some now using micro-satellites, even) that are already in the business of providing imagery for agricultural and other purposes. However, any large-area surveillance won't be captured in anywhere near the resolution needed for security purposes and agricultural monitoring requires specialized sensors that capture broader spectral data.

You could theoretically watch the coca plant being harvested in Columbia, refined into stuff I'm not sure I can say on the forums, shipped on plane
To the extent a satellite would help, they probably already used spy satellites in the war on drugs. I recall some billions of dollars of US assistance and military involvement in Columbia, in particular.

Somebody hits your car in the parking lot and drives away
Cars are rapidly starting to get cameras built-in, which can also be (and probably are) used for security. Probably within 10 years, automated driver assistance will become a mandatory feature of new cars. At that point, you don't need satellite footage, because your own car will have way better quality video that will actually show the license plate of the vehicle that hit it.

The science part may need more research but from a cost perspective of at least storing the data we just captured which when I first thought about it would have been the most difficult part this appears to be very feasible.
When evaluating the feasibility of a plan, you need to focus on to the most infeasible aspect, whereas you seem preoccupied with the least. This is not productive.

Just to recap, here are the per-satellite numbers:
  • 6.53 million 50 MPix cameras
  • 443 thousand RTX 2080-class GPUs
  • 22 Megawatts to be generated and dissipated
  • ~1 terrabit per second of downlink traffic
Any one of those is several orders of magnitude beyond being a deal-breaker. You're so far outside the realm of science - this is purely fiction.

As I mentioned in my later post, satellites are not the right platform for this sort of wide-area surveillance. You should really focus on drones. At least, those will get you city-area surveillance, though you're probably still talking about hot spots, rather than full-time surveillance of everywhere all at once.
 
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