(ORDO NEWS) — Project Kuiper, Jeff Bezos’ satellite internet project, has moved on. Amazon is gearing up to launch two test satellites for its satellite internet constellation.
On Wednesday, October 12, the company announced that the Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2 prototypes will be launched into orbit by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket in early 2023.
The company says the launch will allow it to pilot its satellite network technology using data from space. This data will help complete the development, deployment and operational plans for the commercial satellite system.
It should be noted that the terms are somewhat behind Amazon’s original plan; The company announced last year that it would launch prototypes in Q4 2022 using a very different rocket from ABL Space Systems.
The start of 2023 is just around the corner, but there are still a lot of things that need to be done right to get the launch on schedule.
- First, Amazon must actually finish building the satellites, which it says in a press release will be completed later this year.
- Secondly, the rocket is also not ready yet. ULA said it expects Vulcan assembly to be completed by November and tested until December. This is, to put it mildly, not quite a proven launch platform. The rocket is waiting for its first launch, and therefore the transfer may become commonplace.
Both companies must meet the deadlines. ULA must launch Vulcan twice before Q4 2023 to prove it is reliable enough to fly missions for the US Space Force. Meanwhile, Amazon has to launch half of its satellites by 2026 to keep the FCC license.
That’s further than the end of next year, but given that the Amazon constellation is supposed to be 3,236 satellites, that’s going to require quite a few launches over the next few years.
Thirty-eight of them are planned to be carried out using the Vulcan launch vehicle, while several others are planned to be carried out by Jeff Bezos’s Arianespace and Blue Origin rockets.
Notably missing from the list of partners is SpaceX, which other satellite providers such as Lynk and AST SpaceMobile have used to launch equipment into space.
Why Amazon satellite internet
Amazon says the company’s plan is to “bring fast, affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world.” Interestingly, Amazon also has an agreement with Verizon that its satellites will act as a transit hub for remote LTE or 5G cell towers.
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