Amazon to deorbit test satellites as Project Kuiper moves to next phase

Amazon has confirmed that it has begun deorbiting the two prototype satellites launched for its Project Kuiper low earth orbit (LEO) network, as it prepares to move forward with a full-scale deployment of its production satellite system.

The two prototype satellites – KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 – were launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, in October 2023, to allow Amazon to conduct a series of tests to validate the technology and mission procedures.

“Within 30 days of launch, we achieved a 100% success rate across our key mission objectives, with every major system and subsystem on board performing nominally or better on orbit,” the company said.

“Demonstrating safe, controlled satellite manoeuvring was one of the most critical of those early tests, and achieving that milestone allowed us to continue experiments over the past seven months.”

“Learnings from those studies have informed how we’ll manage our satellite constellation and broadband network as we prepare to begin offering Project Kuiper connectivity services.”

Amazon says that it plans to actively deorbit all satellites in the future within one year of their mission ending, as part of its commitment to space safety and sustainability. This final phase in this current mission will also allow the company to collect data on the deorbit process as the satellites are gradually lowered from their initial target altitude.

“Over the next several months, we will continue using the active propulsion systems onboard KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 to execute a series of controlled manoeuvres,” the company added.

“Combined with natural drag from the Earth’s atmosphere, those manoeuvres will gradually lower satellites to an altitude of around 217 miles (350 kilometres), at which point atmospheric demise will follow.”

“Throughout this process, we will continue to share the satellites’ movements and ephemeris data with other spaceflight operators and use active collision avoidance as needed to further reduce risk.”

With more than 2,000 people at Amazon working on Project Kuiper, the company has already begun work to add a new logistics facility ahead of the next phase of the project and is scaling satellite manufacturing at Kuiper facilities in Kirkland and Redmond, Washington.

Amazon is also installing gateway stations and telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) sites in countries around the world as it continues construction work on a dedicated satellite-processing facility at Kennedy Space Centre.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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