Amazon set to deploy its first Project Kuiper internet satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, per an announcement released Monday by the company.
With the Federal Communications Commission, the technological behemoth requested permission to launch and operate its first two prototype satellites, known as KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, which were built by the company. Amazon said the satellites would be launched alongside ABL Space on its RS1 rocket, which is currently under development.
“We’ll be ready to observe how [the satellites] work in orbit very soon,” said Rajeev Badyal, Amazon’s vice president of technology, in a statement. Because of the complexity and danger associated with functioning in such a demanding environment, there is no replacement for on-orbit testing. We anticipate to learn a great deal from this experience.
A proposal by Amazon to establish a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit in order to deliver high-speed internet to anybody, wherever in the globe is known as Project Kuiper. The Federal Communications Commission approved Amazon’s system last year, and the firm has said that it intends to “spend more than $10 billion” in Kuiper. Early service from Kuiper is expected to begin as soon as Amazon has 578 satellites in orbit, according to the company.
Amazon established a collaboration with Verizon last week, with the goal of working together with the telecommunications behemoth in the increasingly competitive market of high-speed satellite internet.
With its Starlink network, Kuiper is ready to compete head-to-head with SpaceX’s Starlink system, which is the most advanced of the newest generation of broadband satellite systems. Numerous other networks, including those owned by the British company OneWeb, those backed by BlackRock and Astranis, and those that connect satellite phones to smartphones, are in various stages of development. These include Lockheed Martin’s partnership with start-up Omnispace, and the Lightspeed satellite network operated by Canadian satellite operator Telesat.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper team has expanded rapidly over the years, and the company currently has more than 750 employees, with “hundreds more” scheduled to be employed in the next year. A 219,000-square-foot facility in Redmond, Washington was created to test and produce the satellites, and Amazon wants to expand the facility by 20,000 square feet in the near future.
One of the next key milestones in the development of Amazon’s system will be the launch and testing of KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, which will take place one year from now.
In addition, the satellites will be used to test the company’s communications and networking infrastructure, which will include interfacing with Amazon’s ground stations in Texas, South America, and Asia-Pacific.
Amazon also intends to use the McCulloch, Texas facility to test early customer satellite dishes. Since late last year, the business has billed the antenna as a “low-cost customer terminal” that would deliver “reliable service at a more inexpensive price than older antennas.” The company undertook early testing of prototype equipment to determine its suitability.
ABL is continuing to make progress toward the goal of launching its RS1 rocket from Alaska by the end of this year, if everything goes well. Cape Canaveral will be the company’s third planned launch location, after announcements of intentions to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska in the last few months. ABL has not yet disclosed which launch facility in Florida it intends to use for this mission.
It is the second launch contract inked by Amazon with a launch provider this year, after a contract with United Launch Alliance earlier this year for nine Kuiper rocket missions.