- Amazon launches first internet satellite:
The first prototypes of Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite network system were unveiled on Friday.
We have done extensive testing in the lab and are confident in our satellite designs, but there is no substitute for on-orbit testing,” the Kuiper chief said.
- Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed Internet access around the world.
Orders for Internet satellite prototypes have been shipped.
Amazon on Friday saw the launch of the first pair of satellites for its Project Kuiper system in more than four years since the tech giant announced ambitious plans to invest heavily in a global satellite internet network. “We have done extensive testing in the lab and are confident in our satellite designs, but there is no substitute for in-orbit testing,” Rajeev Badyal, the Kuiper Project’s vice president of technology, said before the launch.
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed Internet access around the world. The company plans to invest more than $10 billion in building Kuiper and recently broke ground on a $120 million pre-launch facility in Florida
Friday’s mission, named “Protoflight,” will carry two satellites, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The rocket was launched from ULA’s SLC-41 launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Amazon changed the way it launched the pair of satellites twice, eventually deciding to use the readily available, albeit vastly superior, Atlas V rocket for the Protoflight mission. Amazon originally planned to launch using ABL Space’s RS1 rocket, but delays in RS1 development moved the satellite to the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, and delays to the Vulcan’s debut moved the satellite to the Atlas V.
Little is known about the size and design of Amazon’s two satellites — the company has only shared images of the containers that will carry the spacecraft to Florida. Even ULA’s information about the launch was limited, comparable to what the rocket company provided when it launched classified spy satellites for the US government.
Last year, Amazon announced the largest corporate rocket deal in industry history to launch the Kuiper satellite, signing launch contracts with ULA, Arianespace and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. As part of the deal, Amazon is expected to pay about $7.4 billion over the next five years to launch Kuiper.
The company has booked 77 launches with three companies, including options for more launches if needed to deploy satellites quickly enough to meet regulatory requirements. The massive acquisition comes under scrutiny from an Amazon shareholder lawsuit that accuses the company of rejecting SpaceX’s valuable satellite launch contracts because of Jeff Bezos’ personal rivalry with Elon Musk.
Amazon is closing in on SpaceX, which has expanded its Starlink satellite network service to more than 2 million customers. Crucially, SpaceX said it will no longer cover the cost of the Starlink antennas sold with the service, as the more than 5,000 satellites launched to date now serve consumer, corporate and government customers.
Earlier this week, Amazon reiterated that its first production Kuiper satellites are expected to launch in the first half of next year and that it plans to begin beta testing the network with customers by the end of 2024. Protoflight represents an end-to-end test of Kuiper. Amazon will test whether the prototype satellite can connect to a ground-based antenna and transmit the connection to its small customer terminals. This year, Amazon showcased three dishes it plans to sell to Kuiper customers. The company has not disclosed how much it plans to charge customers for the hardware or services. Early field tests of Amazon’s Kuiper antenna show download speeds of up to 400 Mbps.
The company’s main Kuiper facilities are located near Seattle in Redmond and Kirkland, Washington. Amazon has additional offices in San Diego, Austin, Texas, New York, and Washington, D.C.