Prototype Amazon satellites to be launched this year, with commercial satellite internet service set for 2024
Amazon has added more detail to its timeframe to deliver Internet connectivity via its Project Kuiper satellite service.
Last October Amazon revealed that Project Kuiper will launch two prototype satellites (known as Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2) on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) new Vulcan Centaur rocket in early 2023.
Amazon then announced that it was expanding its Project Kuiper manufacturing capability, with the development of a dedicated, 172,000-square-foot satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington.
Amazon plans to make three to five satellites a day from this expanded facility.
Now on Tuesday Amazon, despite cost cutting and job losses in other departments, has confirmed that it plans to launch its first internet satellites to space in the first half of 2024 and offer initial commercial tests shortly thereafter.
“We’ll definitely be beta testing with commercial customers in 2024,” Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, was quoted as telling at a conference in Washington by Reuters.
The company then confirmed that Project Kuiper is also preparing to deploy its first two prototype satellites on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket.
“The team recently began development of a dedicated satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington, and expects to begin mass-producing satellites by the end of 2023,” Amazon said.
“Project Kuiper expects to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and plans to give its earliest customers access to the service beginning later that year.”
Amazon plans to launch 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit by 2026 so it can offer high-speed broadband internet access around the globe.
To this end Amazon in April 2022 signed a rocket deal with three firms to provide heavy-lift launch services for Project Kuiper.
Amazon also revealed a slate of three different terminals, or antennas, that will connect customers with its Kuiper satellites in orbit.
The “standard customer terminal,” 11-inch square antennas, will cost the company less than $400 each to produce and provide internet speeds of 400 megabits per second for customers, Amazon said.
SpaceX’s consumer Starlink terminals are priced at $599 each, in comparison.
A smaller, square-shaped mobile antenna from Amazon, measuring 7 inches wide and weighing one pound, will be Amazon’s “most affordable” terminal for the network, though the company did not disclose the price.
Amazon’s largest, “most capable” antenna model, “designed for enterprise, government and telecommunications applications,” will be 19 by 30 inches in size and put out internet speeds of up to 1 Gbps.
Amazon’s founder and former CEO Jeff Bezos had announced Project Kuiper back in 2019. Bezos admitted at the time that Project Kuiper would cost billions of dollars to build.
Then in July 2020 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave its official approval for Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellites – Amazon pledged to invest $10 billion in the project.
Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband to a wide range of customers, including individual households, schools, hospitals, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief operations, mobile operators, and other organisations working in places without reliable internet connectivity.
Amazon said that more than 1,000 people currently work on Project Kuiper.