October 9, 2023
Amazon has launched the first two prototype satellites for its Kuiper network constellation.
As part of its Protoflight mission, the company launched the KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 satellites to orbit 310 miles above Earth Friday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The launch was livestreamed by the United Launch Alliance, with the video ending after liftoff.
Once the satellites are in orbit, Amazon said it will perform a series of tests on their systems and attempt initial internet connections, before more than 3,000 additional satellites are sent up to create the full constellation over the next six years.
“We’ve done extensive testing here in our lab and have a high degree of confidence in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for on-orbit testing,” said Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology. “This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”
The Kuiper network consists of three key elements: low-Earth orbit broadband satellites, small-scale terrestrial antennas and a ground-based communications network. The Protoflight mission will test all three parts.
“We’ll use telemetry, tracking, and communications stations to establish first contact with the satellites; deploy solar arrays to generate power; and confirm onboard electronics are operating nominally within acceptable power and temperature ranges,” Amazon said in a statement.
The company added that it will also conduct on-the-ground tests of network hardware and software to ensure it supports internet connectivity.
Plans for the Kuiper network were first announced in 2019, though the target launch date was delayed due to changes to the rockets set to carry the prototype satellites.
Once established, the constellation could rival competitor SpaceX’s Starlink internet constellation, which already has 5,000 satellites in orbit, by providing accessible, affordable broadband to customers around the world.
Amazon said its first production satellites are on track for launch in the first half of 2024, with plans to begin beta testing with early commercial customers by the end of next year.
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