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Amazon launches prototype Project Kuiper satellites

Amazon is moving ahead with its broadband satellite project.

Amazon has gone to space. 

The company has moved forward with its multi-billion dollar Project Kuiper project to create a space-based internet service.  On Friday, Oct. 6, an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, carrying two prototype satellites from Amazon’s Project Kuiper into space before deploying them at an altitude of 311 miles above Earth. 

Initially announced in 2019 with a total price tag of over $10 billion and approved by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2020, Project Kuiper is intended to build a low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation for providing reliable, affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world.  It would eventually compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX’s Starlink and other space-based internet services.

“The launch today 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, VP of technology for Project Kuiper, in a corporate blog post. “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.”

The satellite launch is one of several key steps in Project Kuiper’s “Protoflight” satellite test mission. It allows Amazon to begin downlinking data on satellite health and establish more regular communications with the satellites. The prototype satellites—KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2—are the first iterations of satellites Project Kuiper plans to manufacture and deploy over the next six years.

The series of tests will add real-world data from space to years of data collected from lab and field testing, providing additional information about how the end-to-end Project Kuiper network performs across ground and space. It is also a chance to trial mission procedures for satellite processing, launch and mission operations.

Project Kuiper infrastructure includes a constellation of over 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit, affordable, high-performance customer terminals, and ground networking enabled by Amazon Web Services. Amazon expects to begin production launches and early enterprise customer pilots in 2024. 

Amazon is now underway with construction on a new satellite-processing facility at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center. The space will be used to prepare and integrate Kuiper satellites with rockets from Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance (ULA) ahead of launches. The 100,000-square-foot facility features a 100-foot tall high bay clean room to allow room for the payload fairing of new heavy-lift rockets.

[Read more: Bezos joins billionaire astronaut club]


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