In recent years, we have not stopped talking about the progress of Starlink, the service offered by SpaceX, a company of Elon Musk, which allows access to the internet via a constellation of satellites. But while Starlink is still in its infancy, the competition is heating up.
And while in Europe, Eutelsat is approaching OneWeb, in the United States, a digital giant is preparing to launch its first satellites in order to offer a competing service to Starlink. Formalized in 2019, Amazon’s Kuiper project aims to put a constellation of thousands of satellites into orbit to provide a high-speed connection.
Under its new CEO, Andy Jassy, who took over the reins of the American giant in 2021, Amazon is cutting costs. And some projects, like the Scout delivery robot, have been scrapped. On the other hand, the Kuiper project is still relevant. This week, Amazon even announced the launch of the first satellites of this project in 2023.
Amazon’s first Kuiper satellites soon in orbit
In a press release, the e-commerce giant announces that it will finalize its first two satellites, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, before the end of the year. And the objective is now to deploy these in early 2023.
For the launch of these two satellites, Amazon will rely on the Vulcan Centaur rocket from ULA or United Launch Alliance. The rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Several dozen other launches for the Kuiper constellation are already planned with ULA.
But for the moment, Amazon is still far from fulfilling the vision of its Kuiper project, which is to provide a broadband connection to populations who have no access or who have poor access to traditional mobile networks.
Indeed, the first two satellites scheduled for launch in 2023 are still only prototypes. Nevertheless, it brings Amazon closer to achieving its goals.
Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2 will allow the company to collect data from real uses, following laboratory experiments and simulations. After these tests, Amazon will be able to correct the design of its satellites and review other aspects of the project.
Amazon is already planning the commercial launch
Without giving a timetable, Amazon also mentions the commercial launch. As a reminder, it is a total of 3,236 satellites that the e-commerce giant wishes to put into orbit to form its constellation.
And according to this, launches have already been booked with ULA, Blue Origin (which was also founded by Jeff Bezos), and Arianespace. According to Amazon’s explanations, the fact of diversifying the partners for the launch of its satellites makes it possible to reduce the risks, while offering more flexibility.
“To support our ambitious deployment plan, Amazon and our partners are investing in new production and launch infrastructure in the United States and Europe,” also indicates the American company, whose Kuiper project currently has 1,000 employees.
Regarding the service, once operational, Amazon estimates that it could be used by 10 million people.