Amazon’s Project Kuiper to launch first internet satellites in Q4 2022

A view of ABL Space’s RS1 rocket launching Project Kuiper satellites for Amazon.

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.

Amazon announced a partnership with . last week Verizonto partner with the telecom giant in the increasingly competitive field of high-speed satellite internet.

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 OneWebBlackRock Backed Astranissatellite-to-smartphone specialist AST SpaceMobileLockheed 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 prototype satellites

An engineer from Project Kuiper sets up a prototype antenna for a test.

Amazon

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.

Another deal with a rocket builder

An RS1 rocket booster is shipped from the company’s headquarters in El Segundo, California.

ABL room

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.

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