United Launch Alliance (ULA) has announced that the first prototype satellites for Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband network have been placed on top of their Atlas V rocket. The launch is scheduled to take place on October 6 at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT) from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Project Kuiper aims to provide broadband internet access to underserved areas around the world by placing over 3,200 satellites into orbit. This initiative is in direct competition with SpaceX’s Starlink satellite network, which already has over 2 million subscribers.
Both the Project Kuiper and Starlink satellites are manufactured in the Seattle area. Amazon’s satellite development and manufacturing facility in Redmond, Washington, is where the prototypes for Project Kuiper were built. Amazon is also preparing a production facility in nearby Kirkland to start manufacturing its satellites by the end of the year.
The two prototypes for Project Kuiper, known as Kuipersat 1 and 2, will be used to test the hardware and system operations before full production begins. They were initially planned to launch on ULA’s Vulcan rocket, but due to delays in the Vulcan development program, the payload was switched to ULA’s Atlas V rocket.
The Atlas V rocket variant that will be used for the launch is capable of carrying nearly 18,000 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit. This is significantly more power than what is required to lift the two Kuiper satellites, which are estimated to weigh between 1,300 and 1,540 pounds each.
Amazon has a license from the Federal Communications Commission to launch half of the 3,236 satellites for the Kuiper constellation by mid-2026. This indicates that the launch schedule will be tight. To conduct these launches, Amazon has contracted with ULA, Arianespace, and Blue Origin, with up to 77 launches planned. Most of these launches will utilize next-generation rockets such as ULA’s Vulcan, Arianespace’s Ariane 6, and Blue Origin’s New Glenn. However, the upcoming launch using the Atlas V is one of the nine launches scheduled to use this rocket.