Amazon successfully launched its first two low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to support its Project Kuiper initiative on Friday. The company plans to eventually have a total of 3,238 satellites to support wireless broadband connectivity in remote rural areas.
Half of those satellites must be deployed by 2026 to meet deadlines imposed by the FCC when it approved the project.
The initial two satellites are only for testing purposes, however, and will be decommissioned after testing is completed. The company expects to begin launching production satellites in the first half of 2024 and expects to be in beta testing with early commercial customers by the end of 2024.
The first two satellites, dubbed KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 2:06 p.m. EDT on Friday.
According to an Amazon blog post, “We hit our first major mission milestone at 2:53 p.m. ET when our mission operations center in Redmond, Washington confirmed first contact with KuiperSat-2. This is when the satellite and one of our telemetry, tracking and control antennas established a telemetry link for the first time. We made first contact with KuiperSat-1 at 2:54 p.m.”
Plans for testing will involve customer terminals and a ground-based communications network, as well as the satellites.
Total investment in Project Kuiper is expected to be in the range of $10 billion.
A Crowded Market
The launch of the first two Project Kuiper satellites took somewhat longer than Amazon initially projected.
Amazon will be joining SpaceX Starlink and several other companies in offering LEO satellite service, which offers lower latency in comparison with traditional geostationary satellites.
Although Amazon will be somewhat of a latecomer in the LEO market, some industry observers see Starlink as having an edge because of Amazon’s marketing clout. Already that may have played a role in gaining a big deal with Verizon, which plans to use the service for 5G wireless backhaul in rural areas and potentially to eventually support fixed wireless service.