A view of ABL Space’s RS1 rocket launching Project Kuiper satellites for Amazon.
Amazon plans to launch its first Project Kuiper internet satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, the company announced Monday.
The tech giant filed a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to launch and operate its first two prototype satellites, named KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2. Amazon said the satellites will be launched with ABL room on his RS1 rocket.
“We’ll be ready soon to see how [the satellites] performing in space,” said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology at Amazon. “There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of working in such a challenging environment .”
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed internet anywhere in the world. The FCC last year approved Amazon’s system, which it says plans to “invest more than $10 billion” in Kuiper. Kuiper’s early shift will begin as soon as Amazon has 578 satellites in orbit.
Kuiper is ready to go toe-to-toe with SpaceX’s Starlink Network, which is furthest in the latest generation of broadband satellite systems. Several other networks are in various stages of development, including that of British-owned OneWeb† BlackRock Backed Astranis† satellite-to-smartphone specialist AST SpaceMobile† Lockheed Martin’s collaboration with start-up Omnispace and Canadian satellite operator Telesat’s speed of light†
The Project Kuiper team has grown steadily at Amazon, which now employs more than 750 people and will hire “hundreds more” next year. Amazon built a 219,000 square foot facility in Redmond, Washington to test and manufacture the satellites, and plans to add another 20,000 square foot facility.
The launch and testing of KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 in a year’s time is one of the next major milestones in Amazon’s system development.
The pair of satellites is intended to test Amazon’s communications and network infrastructure and connect to the company’s ground stations in Texas, South America and Asia-Pacific.
“KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will feature much of the technology and subsystems that power the production version of our satellite design — phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, custom-designed modems, and more,” Amazon said in a press release. blog post.
Amazon also plans to test early customer satellite dishes at its McCulloch, Texas location. The company described the antenna as a “low-cost customer terminal” that will “provide reliable service at a more affordable price than legacy antennas,” with conducted early tests of prototype equipment late last year†
According to Amazon’s filing, the satellites are expected to connect to the Texas antennas for up to four minutes, up to five times a day.
An engineer from Project Kuiper sets up a prototype antenna for a test.
The impact of networks with hundreds or thousands of satellites on the night sky is a concern for systems like Kuiper. Equivalent to the “sun visors” SpaceX added to Starlink satellites to reduce brightnessAmazon said one of the two prototype Kuiper satellites “will include a sunshade to help us understand if it’s an effective way to reduce reflection and thereby reduce its impact on ground-based optical telescopes.”
“We will collect data to compare the reflectivity between the two spacecraft, and share any lessons learned with the astronomy community after the mission,” Amazon said.
In addition, to counter the risk of adding space junk into orbit, Amazon emphasized that its Kuiper prototypes are designed to burn up completely in the atmosphere at the end of their lifespans.
An RS1 rocket booster is shipped from the company’s headquarters in El Segundo, California.
Amazon plans to send the satellites on separate ABL launches, which will take off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The companies have been working together for several months, Amazon said, with two design reviews completed.
ABL continues to work on the inaugural launch of its RS1 rocket from Alaska by the end of this year. The company has previously announced plans to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska, making Cape Canaveral the third planned launch site to date. ABL has not yet announced which launch complex it plans to use in Florida.
The Amazon missions add to ABL’s contract backlog, which, according to the rocket builder, has 14 customers so far.
“Amazon will play a pivotal role in the next-generation space infrastructure and we are proud to have been selected as a Kuiper launch partner, particularly for these crucial early flights,” said Harry O’Hanley, CEO of ABL, in a statement. declaration.
The deal with ABL is the second Amazon has signed with a launch provider, having signed a contract earlier this year United Launch Alliance for nine Kuiper launches.