Space

Amazon to launch prototype satellites for global internet service

Amazon to launch prototype sat...
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Project Kuiper infographic
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Project Kuiper infographic
Artist's concept of the Kuiper prototype satellites launching
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Artist's concept of the Kuiper prototype satellites launching

Amazon announced today that it is going ahead with Project Kuiper, its rival to SpaceX's Starlink orbital global internet service, by launching a pair of prototype satellites into low-Earth orbit next year. Operating under an experimental license from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will test the communications and networking technology for the final satellite design.

According to Amazon, the pending license will allow it to not only launch the two prototypes, but also validate its launch operations and mission management techniques as well as the proprietary customer ground terminals used for the Earthside end of the network. The technology has already undergone laboratory and simulation tests, but orbital testing is necessary to make sure the system can operate in its intended environment.

The upcoming tests will include the systems and subsystems for the satellite and its phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, and bespoke modems. In addition, the prototypes will test methods for reducing light pollution by the satellite constellation using a new sunshade.

The satellites are scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida atop RS1 rockets and the GS0 launch system built and operated by ABL Space Systems. The prototypes are designed to reduce space debris by actively deorbiting at the end of the mission so they burn up in the Earth's atmosphere.

Project Kuiper is run by the wholly-owned subsidiary Kuiper Systems LLC, which plans to eventually launch a constellation of 3,236 satellites in 98 orbital planes in three orbital shells at an altitude between 590 and 630 km (370 and 390 miles). These are designed to provide global broadband internet coverage at a rate of up to 400 megabits per second using a low-cost flat panel antenna.

"Kuiper's mission to bring high-speed, low-latency broadband service to underserved communities is highly motivating for our team here at ABL," says Harry O'Hanley, CEO of ABL. "Amazon will play a central role in the next generation of space infrastructure, and we're proud to have been selected as their launch partner for these critical early flights."

Source: Amazon

6 comments
6 comments
David
Amazon need to include the ability to deorbit each satellite when needed, otherwise they'll be adding greatly to the risk of a Kessler cascade. Ditto SpaceX.
paul314
So I guess ground-based astronomy is pretty much done. 3000-plus satellites in 100-minute orbits will pretty much guarantee at least one streak in every observation more than a few minutes long. And that's before you get to the radio blanketing.
darkcook
Seems like Amazon is getting ahead of their selves a bit. Last time I checked, they have yet to place anything into orbit. Looking at ABL's website, looks like they are in the same boat. They are putting together quite a team and actively growing (62 open positions), but it also seems they have yet to insert anything into orbit. SpaceX makes it look easy, but it's not. Best of luck to them, but I predict a few failures along the way.

@DAVID: You comment on deorbit was covered in the article. Looks like they have plans to do just that.
BlueOak
Can low orbit space withstand the coming carpet of satellites?
GregVoevodsky
Amazon is so far behind Space X. They should focus on saving the world from Global Warming or building a Space Hotel using Space X rockets. Bezos is a sore loser and filing lawsuits everywhere. If you can't do, you sue and look like a fool. Please go plant 10 billion more trees and retire Blue Ball un-Origin failed Moon Ship 10X more with 1/100th that of Space X's Starship..
christopher
I pity Amazon shareholders! The same month Starlink is ending their Beta phase and going full-production, with 600,000+ customers on backorder and ramping up the mass-production of their ground stations... Amazon plan to launch just the *start* of their testing? Who will be left to sign up to Kuiper when it arrives, a decade after Elon snapped up all the market?

Heck - LEO satellites only live for 5 years anyhow - so by the time Kuiper gets their 400mbit stuff orbiting, Starlink will be on to their *third* generation, offering 10x the bandwidth and almost certainly lower latency too...

Kuiper lost this race on November 11th, 2019 - when the first 60 Starlink operational satellites hit orbit.

If they really wanted to win this race, they should have put more effort into atmospheric (even lower latency, easy-to-upgrade, and $0 launch cost) designs... but no... this is another waste-shareholder-funds-to-spite-Elon move only.