Amazon’s attempt to make a name for itself in the increasingly crowded satellite communications market through the deployment of its own low earth orbit (LEO) network has taken a major step forward, with the company successfully completing the launch of two prototype satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US.
The $10 billion Project Kuiper initiative aims to deploy a constellation of 3,236 satellites at an altitude of approximately 500 kilometres above Earth, to deliver broadband connectivity on a global basis. These first two satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, form part of the ‘Protoflight’ development and test phase of the project.
Amazon was granted a licence by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July 2020 to operate the network, which requires that the company deploy at least half of its planned satellites by July 2026.
“(This launch) started a new phase of our Protoflight mission, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s an exciting milestone all the same,” said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper.
“I’m tremendously grateful to the Project Kuiper team for their dedication in getting us to this point, and to our partners at United Launch Alliance who helped us deploy our first spacecraft ever into orbit.”
In March of this year Amazon revealed early engineering models of three user terminals of various sizes for different applications, starting with an ultra-compact model capable of delivering speeds of up to 100 Mbps, a standard model delivering up to 400 Mbps, and a larger enterprise model capable of up to 1 Gbps.
The company says that it expects to begin providing services to the earliest Project Kuiper customers by the end of 2024.