Amazon has achieved a 100 percent success rate for its Protoflight mission, showcasing the capabilities of its prototype Project Kuiper satellites. The company tested the satellites’ thrusters, flight computers, solar arrays, and radio frequency communications payload, all of which performed as expected or exceeded expectations. This successful demonstration now allows Amazon to move forward with mass production of the satellites, with plans for full-scale deployment starting in the first half of 2024.
During the testing, the team also validated prototypes of the Project Kuiper customer terminal, telemetry, tracking, and control stations, the ground gateway station in Texas, and the connection points to the terrestrial internet via Amazon Web Services. Once the end-to-end network functionality was established, the team used Project Kuiper to stream Amazon Prime Video, conducted two-way video calls with Amazon Chime, and made a purchase from the Amazon.com store.
While the streaming, video calls, and online shopping via satellite were impressive, there were questions about scalability considering that Project Kuiper aims to connect millions of customers. Amazon clarified that the Protoflight mission focused on real-world testing in space and on the ground. Network testing will be scaled up in the coming months as they prepare for beta testing in the second half of 2024.
The successful testing of the Project Kuiper concept is a significant step forward. Amazon plans to continue experimenting over the next few months to assess the durability of the prototype satellites during an extended period in orbit. If all goes well, the next challenge will be rapidly building out the satellite constellation.
Amazon has already secured 77 heavy-lift vehicles from three launch providers. However, there are delays with the new rockets of ULA and Arianespace, while Blue Origin has yet to achieve more than sub-orbital launches. As for customers, Amazon claims that its standard terminal can deliver speeds of up to 400 Mbps, costing less than $400. There will also be compact and portable terminals with speeds of up to 100 Mbps and larger enterprise devices capable of 1 Gbps.