E-commerce giant Amazon’s internet satellite programme, Project Kuiper, is slated to launch its first two prototype satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, the company announced on Monday, November 1. The satellite network in the low-Earth orbit will aim to provide low-latency, high-speed internet services on ground customers.
The first two prototype satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will act as a trial run for the company before it launches thousands of small communication satellites into the low-Earth orbit for its satellite constellation. The goal of the launch would be to examine and validate the satellites’ propulsion, power and attitude control systems, thermal design and over-the-air software update capabilities.
As part of Project Kuiper, Amazon is preparing to launch 3,236 satellites, a plan it announced for the first time in 2019. Last year, the company had also disclosed an on-ground customer antenna concept that will provide uninterrupted access to high-speed satellite-based internet even in remote locations.
The Federal Communications Commissions, the on-ground satellite communications regulatory body, authorised Amazon’s proposed satellite network in 2020 and directed the company to launch half of the satellites in the network by mid-2026.
Amazon has been testing its satellites on-ground for the past few years, but “the ultimate test is in space,” stated Rajeev Badya, one of Amazon’s Vice President involved in the development of Project Kuiper.
The satellites will be launched separately on rockets from ABL Space Systems and would operate 590 kilometres above Earth’s surface. Once in orbit, the satellites would connect up with ground stations in South America, the Asia-pacific region, central Texas and four customer terminal units, according to the company’s experimental license application submitted before the FCC.
The launch of its prototypes will put Amazon in direct competition against other satellite-based communication ventures such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX subsidy Starlink and Bharti Group-backed OneWeb, both of which have already launched satellites in the low-Earth orbit successfully.