Amazon.com announced that its two prototype satellites for its Kuiper internet network are operating successfully in orbit. The company is on track to launch operational satellites by mid-2024. The goal of the Kuiper internet network is to compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink and provide broadband internet service globally.
Amazon reported a 100% success rate within the first 30 days of launching the prototype satellites from Florida using a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. During the testing phase, Amazon used the prototype satellites for video calls, streaming high-definition movies, and ordering items from its website.
Rajeev Badyal, the vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, acknowledged that there is still a lot of work ahead and scaling for mass production will be a challenge. According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Amazon is required to launch more than half of its planned 3,000 satellite constellation by 2026.
Following the successful prototype tests, Amazon plans to start building production-ready satellites next month with a launch scheduled for the second quarter of 2024. The exact number of satellites per rocket launch is yet to be disclosed.
Badyal expects that the network will be capable of providing broadband coverage in some parts of the world by late 2024, with an early beta phase planned to begin in early 2025. Vodafone and Verizon are among the early partners who will beta test the service.
Amazon secured a bulk launch deal for 83 launches last year, which is considered the largest commercial rocket procurement to date. This deal includes rocket companies such as Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Arianespace.
United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed, is scheduled to launch the first several batches of Kuiper satellites using its Atlas 5 and upcoming Vulcan rocket.
In contrast, Starlink, the largest satellite operator, uses SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets for its network, which currently consists of approximately 5,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit, providing near-global broadband coverage.