Amazon Deploys Initial Test Satellites for Kuiper Internet Network

Technology

The mission’s objective is to trial Amazon’s initial space-based technology, as the e-commerce and web services titan plans to launch an additional 3,236 satellites in the coming years to provide global broadband internet coverage

Amazon’s initial pair of prototype satellites for its planned Kuiper internet network were successfully launched into space on Friday from Florida. This marks the company’s first step in deploying thousands more satellites into orbit to provide global internet service, putting it in competition with SpaceX’s Starlink.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, adorned with the Amazon logo, took off from Cape Canaveral shortly after 2 p.m. Eastern time (1800 GMT), carrying the two Kuiper test satellites. This mission had long been anticipated by Amazon and was originally intended to be launched using different rockets.

The primary objective of this mission is to test Amazon’s first space-based technology. The e-commerce and web services giant plans to deploy an additional 3,236 satellites in the coming years to offer broadband internet on a global scaleā€”a goal shared by SpaceX with its nearly 5,000 Starlink satellites currently in orbit.

In the lead-up to the launch, Amazon provided limited details about the two satellites, which were manufactured at its satellite facility in Redmond, Washington. The live stream of the launch, hosted by the United Launch Alliance (a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture), concluded shortly after liftoff without showing the deployment of the satellites. Amazon later confirmed that the two satellites were successfully deployed, and its mission operations center had established contact with them.

Amazon has committed to investing $10 billion into its Kuiper project, which was announced in 2019, coinciding with SpaceX’s commencement of deploying its first operational Starlink spacecraft.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has mandated that Amazon deploy half of its planned satellite constellation by 2026. The market for broadband internet service provided by low-Earth orbit satellites is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars over the next decade.

With Starlink’s rapid expansion making SpaceX the largest satellite operator globally, Amazon’s competitors in this space include Canada’s Telesat, which has yet to launch satellites, and France’s Eutelsat’s OneWeb, primarily serving governments and businesses with its internet service.

Like SpaceX, Amazon intends to target individual consumers and enterprise customers with Kuiper. The company plans to manufacture consumer terminals at a cost of $400 each, though pricing details have not yet been disclosed. In comparison, SpaceX’s consumer Starlink terminals are priced at $599 each.

To complete the Kuiper network, Amazon announced a bulk launch agreement last year for 83 launches, constituting the largest commercial rocket procurement ever. These launches involve multiple rocket companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, ULA, and Europe’s Arianespace.

Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, are currently facing a shareholder lawsuit regarding this launch agreement. The lawsuit accuses the company of neglecting proper due diligence and failing to consider potentially more cost-effective rockets offered by rival SpaceX, whose reusable Falcon 9 rocket has played a central role in the swift deployment of Starlink.

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