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Amazon Launching First 2 Project Kuiper LEO Broadband Satellites

Friday, Oct 6th, 2023 (7:57 am) - Score 1,104
Amazon-Project-Kuiper-Rocket-Nose-Cone

Internet giant Amazon will today launch their first two prototype satellites – Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2 – into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as part of plans to test the technologies that will be used in Project Kuiper, which aims to loft a mega constellation of satellites to deliver ultrafast broadband and 4G/5G mobile across the world.

At present Amazon is still running a long way behind rivals such as OneWeb and Starlink (SpaceX). Nevertheless, the company currently has approval to deploy and operate their own constellation of 3,236 LEO satellites as part of Project Kuiper, which will sit at an altitude of between 590km and 630km. The system can process up to 1Tbps (Terabits per second) of data traffic on board each satellite, but that must be shared between many users.

NOTE: Project Kuiper’s LEOs will communicate with ground stations using the 17.8-18.6GHz and 28.6-29.1GHz bands (more details).

Each LEO is fairly small, but they make up for that in quantity, and this approach typically delivers lots of data capacity (100-400Mbps broadband speeds), as well as relatively fast latency times (often c.20-40ms) – provided it’s all matched by plenty of Ground Stations and regulatory approvals in supporting countries.

The new network, much like other LEO constellations, also plans to cater for mobile (4G and 5G) connections. For example, Vodafone and Vodacom have already announced their intention to use Project Kuiper’s network to bring the benefits of 4G/5G connectivity to “areas that may otherwise be challenging and prohibitively expensive to serve via traditional fibre or microwave solutions.”

Project Kuiper’s Test Satellites

The two prototype satellites were originally due to be launched during early 2023, but the rockets Amazon picked to use have all experienced delays. Project Kuiper has so far secured 77 heavy-lift launches from Arianespace, Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and they have options for additional launches with Blue Origin.

Amazon-Project-Kuiper-Terminal-Dish

We’ve done extensive testing here in our lab and have a high degree of confidence in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for on-orbit testing,” said Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology. “This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”

Amazon’s Testing Plan

The Kuiper System includes three key elements: advanced LEO broadband satellites; small, affordable customer terminals; and a secure, resilient ground-based communications network. The Protoflight mission will test all three parts, along with the teams and systems that manage them.

To start, our satellites will travel to space on an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) where ULA will deploy them at an altitude of 311 miles (500 kilometers). From that point, we’ll begin testing various systems and subsystems on board. For example, we’ll use telemetry, tracking, and communications (TT&C) stations to establish first contact with the satellites; deploy solar arrays to generate power; and confirm onboard electronics are operating nominally within acceptable power and temperature ranges.

On the ground, we will test our advanced networking hardware and software to refine how they support the flow of data through the Kuiper System and AWS. Gateway antennas positioned around the world will track and communicate with the satellites and also connect the Kuiper System to the internet. As the mission progresses, we will test the network from end to end, sending data back and forth between the internet, our ground gateways, the satellites, and our customer terminals.

At the end of the mission, we plan to actively deorbit both satellites before they ultimately burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere—part of our commitment to space safety.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 501 rocket is due to liftoff today from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida. The launch window opens at 2:00 PM ET (7PM UK Time) and concludes at 4:00 PM ET (9PM UK Time).

Assuming all goes to plan, then the first production satellites are currently on track for launch in the first half of 2024, and Amazon expects to be in beta testing with early commercial customers by the end of 2024. After that it will take the operator another 6 years to fully manufacture and launch their planned constellation, which takes us to around mid to late 2029.

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Comments
11 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    How much more of this junk do we need up there? Millionaires competing with each other. they are not doing it for people, they are doing it to make even more money.
    It should be stopped.

    1. Avatar photo ? says:

      So who should stop them? are you a poor green-eyed monster?

    2. Avatar photo Yatta! says:

      @Ad47uk: They’re billionaires not millionaires. Due to their orbits, the “junk” is short lived so shouldn’t be a serious problem.

      Before anyone else chines in, I’m aware of the hypothetical Kessler syndrome, it’s in reality extremely unlikely to be caused by these constellations.

      @?: National governments control their airspace, so can prevent launches within theirs if they wish, international airspace is more complex, but not exactly a free for all.

      International agreements and regulations overseen by a body such as the UN would be sensible, even if they were difficult to enforce due to rouge nations and national vetos.

    3. Avatar photo I love Starlink says:

      Most SL Sats will last 5 years and then they fall out of orbit and burn up.

    4. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @?, they can’t do what they want, even with all their money, there are still laws and rules they have to stick too.
      would I like more money? Yes, most people would, but would I like their lifestyle? Nope, so not a green-eyed monster

      @Yatta!, what ever, they still have a lot of money and seem to think they can do what they want. They are not doing it for us, they are doing it for them. Also, no matter how long this junk stays in orbit, it is still a waste of resources. Maybe if they worked together, so we would not have so much junk up there.

  2. Avatar photo Rob says:

    Amazon Basics Preparation-H

  3. Avatar photo Anonymous says:

    I hate how we have turned the earths orbit into a product for companies to profit from!!! This and star-link is totally unnecessary.

    1. Avatar photo Peter says:

      …unnecessary for you.

    2. Avatar photo Oneman says:

      Over a million people disagree with you

  4. Avatar photo Jeff Bezos says:

    Amazon, in common with Meta and other big tech companies, are fairly rapidly culling unprofitable and non-core bits of their businesses. This extremely expensive vanity project won’t go much further than this.

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