Amazon’s formidable satellite-internet challenge, Project Kuiper, goals to launch its first two prototype satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to an experimental launch license the corporate filed with the Federal Communications Fee as we speak. Known as KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, the two prototypes are supposed to launch on an experimental new rocket referred to as the RS1, presently being developed by startup ABL House Methods based mostly in El Segundo, California.
Kuiper’s purpose is to launch a giant constellation of up to 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit over the subsequent decade in order to present low-latency broadband web protection to the floor beneath. The plan is to serve rural communities and different areas the place it’s tough to present infrastructure for conventional web providers. It’s an identical idea to that of Starlink, SpaceX’s broadband web satellite tv for pc constellation, which proposes sending practically 12,000 into low orbit round Earth. However not like Kuiper, Spacex has truly launched greater than 1,700 of its satellites and even created a beta program for a whole lot of customers. Kuiper has but to launch any satellites.
Now, the Amazon subsidiary appears nearly prepared to get began. Final week, the corporate showed off testing of the thrusters the satellites will use to maneuver by way of house. And Kuiper claims that these first prototypes will enable the corporate to check out the identical “communication and networking know-how” that might be included in the finalized satellites. The two prototypes will function at 366 miles, or 590 kilometers, above Earth. KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will home loads of the identical know-how wanted for the ultimate constellation, together with antennas, modems, and energy and propulsion.
Whereas in house, the satellites might be used to check out their capacity to join with 4 of Kuiper’s user terminals and a floor station in McCulloch, Texas, designed to ship and obtain broadband alerts from the spacecraft. The whole check sequence is ready to final simply 10 minutes as every satellite tv for pc passes overhead.
“There is no such thing as a substitute for on-orbit testing, and we anticipate to study rather a lot given the complexity and danger of working in such a difficult atmosphere,” Rajeev Badyal, vp of know-how for Project Kuiper, stated in a press release. “We will’t wait to get began.” Thus far, Kuiper says it has achieved some testing on the bottom with its consumer terminals, claiming to get most throughput speeds of up to 400 Mbps. Starlink’s beta program touts obtain hastens to 100 Mbps and 200 Mbps.
Kuiper’s alternative to fly its first two prototypes on ABL’s RS1 rocket is an surprising one. In April, the corporate introduced that it had bought nine flights of the United Launch Alliance’s workhorse Atlas V rocket in order to launch batches of Kuiper satellites. In the meantime, ABL has but to truly launch one in every of its rockets. The corporate says it’s aiming to conduct its first test launch with the RS1 before the end of the year out of Alaska. Kuiper says it’s been “impressed by ABL’s distinctive capabilities, speedy improvement progress, and dedication to clients,” according to a blog post published today. ABL’s RS1 rocket can have the potential to launch roughly 1.5 tons of payload to low Earth orbit at approximately $12 million per flight, which Kuiper claims is the “proper capability and cost-efficiency to help our mission profile.” An Amazon spokesperson confirmed that the smaller RS1 is extra acceptable for the launch of two satellites, whereas Kuiper plans to use the Atlas V rockets to deploy the total constellation.
Together with as we speak’s information, Kuiper can be making an attempt to reassure the house neighborhood that the corporate will try to mitigate any dangerous results of its satellites. One large criticism of proposed mega-constellations like Kuiper and Starlink is that they’ll lead to a way more crowded atmosphere in low Earth orbit, growing the probability of in-space collisions and making it harder to launch satellites in the long run. Kuiper says it’s going to take its prototype satellites out of orbit when it’s achieved testing them by plunging them into Earth’s ambiance, the place they’ll fritter away.
Kuiper additionally says it’s been “working with astronomers and others in the business to scale back the visibility of Kuiper System satellites.” Astronomers have raised considerations concerning the rise of satellite tv for pc mega-constellations, as the influx of bright satellites will lead to more disruption of observations of the night sky. To assist dampen the brightness of its satellites, Kuiper is together with a sunshade on one of many two prototypes to reduce its capacity to replicate gentle from the Solar. “We are going to acquire information to examine reflectivity between the two spacecraft and share any learnings with the astronomy neighborhood following the mission,” Kuiper wrote in its weblog publish. SpaceX has additionally launched more than 1,000 of its satellites with sunshades, or visors, to dampen their brightness.
This newest announcement from Kuiper comes every week after the corporate announced a partnership with Verizon to develop the service’s 4G / LTE and 5G protection to extra underserved areas. Such a deal depends on Kuiper launching its satellites first.