Amazon has announced that its two prototype satellites for the Kuiper internet network have been successfully operating in orbit. The company is now on track to start launching operational satellites by mid-2024. The Kuiper internet network aims to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink to offer global broadband internet service to consumers, companies, and governments.
During the first 30 days after the prototype satellites were launched from Florida on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, Amazon achieved a 100 percent success rate. The prototype satellites were used to conduct two-way video calls, stream a high-definition movie on Prime Video, and make purchases from Amazon’s website.
Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to be done and scaling for mass production will not be easy. The US Federal Communications Commission has required Amazon to deploy more than 3000 satellites by 2026, with at least half of them operational by that time.
Following the success of the prototype tests, Amazon plans to start building production-ready satellites next month for a launch in the second quarter of 2024. However, Badyal did not disclose the number of satellites that will be launched per rocket.
It is expected that the Kuiper network will be capable of providing broadband coverage in certain parts of the world by late 2024, with an early beta phase targeted to begin in early 2025. Partners like Vodafone and Verizon will be among the first telecom firms to beta test the service.
In 2020, Amazon announced a major launch deal for 83 launches, the largest commercial rocket procurement ever, involving companies such as Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Arianespace. ULA’s Atlas 5 and the upcoming Vulcan rocket are set to launch the initial batches of Kuiper satellites.
Meanwhile, Starlink, which currently has approximately 5000 satellites in low-Earth orbit, has been using SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets to expand its network since 2019, providing near-global broadband coverage.