Bengaluru: Tech giant Amazon has announced plans to launch the first two satellites of Project Kuiper, its internet satellite venture, in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The final constellation of satellites will consist of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit, beaming high-speed internet to customers. The details were revealed in an experimental launch license that the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Monday.
The two satellites, named KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will be prototypes and will be launched by United Launch Alliance (ULA) on ABL Space Systems rockets. The satellites will test the technology for high-speed internet, and will carry sub-systems like phased arrays, parabolic antennas, and custom-designed modems.
Project Kuiper is the second space venture from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also founded the sub-orbital spaceflight company Blue Origin. Bezos flew on his company’s New Shepard rocket earlier this year.
“We’ve invented lots of new technology to meet our cost and performance targets for Project Kuiper. All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we’ll soon be ready to see how they perform in space,” said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, in a statement.
“There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment. We can’t wait to get started.”
The two satellites will be launched into a circular orbit 590 km high, and will communicate during a 10-minute overhead pass with a ground station in Texas, USA.
ABL Space Systems, which has obtained the contract to launch the satellites, is also a newcomer to launch vehicles. The company aims to launch its first RS1 rocket by the end of this year, from Alaska.
In its announcement, Amazon addressed the issue of orbital debris, stating that the company is “committed to being a responsible steward of Earth and space”. The two satellites are programmed to de-orbit and burn up in the atmosphere after their test mission.
Following ongoing criticism from many in the astronomy community for thousands of bright satellites launch, hindering night sky observation, Amazon has also stated that it is working with astronomers to reduce the visibility of satellites as they fly overhead.
One of the technologies that Kuiper will try will be sunshades on one of the satellites, which will reduce reflectivity. SpaceX too has launched over 1000 satellites with sunshades.
The Kuiper launch announcement comes on the heels of Amazon’s partnership with mobile service provider Verizon, to expand 4G and 5G coverage to under-covered areas.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)