Rendering of the RS1 ABL Space rocket launching the Kuiper satellites for Amazon.
Amazon plans to launch its first Project Kuiper internet satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, the company said on Monday.
The tech giant has filed a request with the FCC to launch and operate its first two prototype satellites, dubbed KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2. Amazon says satellites will be launched from ABL Space on its RS1 rocket.
“We will soon be ready to see how [the satellites] Amazon Vice President Rajiv Badyal said in a statement. “There is no substitute for testing in orbit, and we look forward to learning a lot given the complexity and risk of operating 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. Last year, the FCC authorized Amazon’s system, which the company says is planning to “invest over $ 10 billion” in Kuiper. Early service from Kuiper is set to begin when Amazon orbits 578 satellites.
Amazon last week announced a partnership with Verizon to partner with the telecommunications giant in the ever-growing competition for high-speed satellite Internet.
Kuiper is ready to keep pace with SpaceX’s Starlink network, which is the most advanced of the latest generation of broadband satellite systems. Many other networks are in various stages of development, including the one owned by UK company OneWeb, backed by BlackRock Astranis, AST SpaceMobile, which specializes in satellite and smartphone transmission, Lockheed Martin’s partnership with startup Omnispace, and Canadian satellite operator Telesat’s Lightspeed.
The Project Kuiper team has grown steadily at Amazon, which now employs over 750 people, and hundreds more are expected to be hired next year. Amazon has built a 219,000 square foot facility in Redmond, Washington to test and manufacture satellites and plans to add another 20,000 square feet.
The launch and testing of KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 one year later represents one of the next major milestones in the development of the Amazon system.
A pair of satellites are designed to test Amazon’s communications and network infrastructure, connecting to the company’s ground stations located in Texas, South America and the Asia-Pacific region.
“KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will include most of the technologies and subsystems used in the production version of our satellite design – phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, custom design modems and more,” Amazon said. in his statement. Blog post.
In addition, Amazon plans to test its customers’ first satellite dishes in McCulloch, Texas. The company describes the antenna as a “low cost subscriber terminal” that will provide “reliable service at a more affordable cost than legacy antennas” conducted early tests of a prototype of the equipment at the end of last year.
According to Amazon filings, satellites are expected to connect to Texas antennas within four minutes, up to five times a day.
A Kuiper project engineer sets up a prototype antenna for testing.
The impact of networks with hundreds or thousands of satellites on the night sky has been a concern for systems like Kuiper. Similar to the “sun visors” that SpaceX has added to Starlink satellites to reduce brightness, Amazon says one of the two prototype Kuiper satellites “will include a sun visor that will help us understand if this is an effective way to reduce reflectivity and thereby mitigating its impact on ground-based optical telescopes “.
“We will collect data to compare the reflection coefficients between the two spacecraft and share any knowledge we have with the astronomical community after the mission,” Amazon said.
In addition, to combat the risk of space debris entering orbit, Amazon stressed that its Kuiper prototypes are engineered to be completely burnt in the atmosphere at the end of their useful life.
Another deal with a rocket scientist
The RS1 Rocket Booster departs from the company’s headquarters in El Segundo, California.
Amazon plans to send satellites to separate ABL launches, which will be launched from the Space Force station at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The companies have been working together “for several months,” after which two design reviews were completed, according to Amazon.
ABL continues to work on the first launch of an RS1 rocket from Alaska by the end of this year. The company previously announced plans to launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California and the Pacific Space Launch Center complex in Alaska, making Cape Canaveral its third planned launch site to date. ABL has not yet announced which launch facility it plans to use in Florida.
Amazon’s missions are increasing the backlog of ABL contracts, which the rocket maker said currently has 14 clients.
“Amazon will play a central role in the next generation of space infrastructure and we are proud to have been selected as a launch partner by Kuiper, especially for these critical early flights,” ABL CEO Harry O’Hanley said in a statement.
The ABL deal is the second deal Amazon has signed with the launch provider, which had nine Kuiper launches with the United Launch Alliance earlier this year.