Illustration of a rocket with an Amazon logo rising above the clouds.
Enlarge / Illustration of an ABL RS1 rocket that may carry Amazon broadband satellites.

Amazon plans to launch its first prototype broadband satellites in This autumn 2022, which might be almost 4 years after SpaceX launched its first prototype Starlink satellites.

“This morning, we filed an experimental license application with the Federal Communications Fee (FCC) to launch, deploy, and function two prototype satellites for Challenge Kuiper,” Amazon stated in a blog post. “These satellites—KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2—are an vital step within the improvement course of. They permit us to check the communications and networking know-how that can be utilized in our closing satellite tv for pc design, and assist us validate launch operations and mission administration procedures that can be used when deploying our full constellation.”

Amazon stated it should launch the satellites from Cape Canaveral Area Power Station in Florida on ABL Area Techniques’ RS1 rocket, as a part of a multilaunch deal the businesses introduced in the present day. Amazon’s prototype satellites will function at an altitude of 590 km.

“Whereas working underneath the experimental license, the KuiperSats will talk with TT&C [telemetry, tracking, and control] Earth stations in South America, the Asia-Pacific area, and McCulloch, Texas, in addition to with buyer terminal items and a single gateway Earth station positioned in McCulloch, Texas,” Amazon instructed the FCC.

SpaceX launched prototypes in February 2018

Amazon beforehand stated it does not count on to launch any satellites till 2023 on the earliest. The anticipated This autumn 2022 launch of prototype satellites does not change that timeline for manufacturing satellites, which could not be launched till a 12 months or extra after the check variations.

SpaceX launched two check satellites for Starlink in February 2018 and its first batch of 60 manufacturing satellites in Might 2019. The Starlink public beta started in October 2020, and the service simply exited beta throughout the previous few days.

If Amazon follows an analogous timeline, which isn’t any given, its first manufacturing satellites would launch in late 2023 or early 2024. Precise service could be out there in 2025. Amazon has Federal Communications Fee approval to launch 3,236 low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites whereas SpaceX has approval for almost 12,000.

In its FCC submitting, Amazon stated it “is designing and testing the Kuiper System in an all-new, 219,000-square-foot facility in Redmond, Washington,” and “including one other 20,000-square-foot facility to supply extra capability.” Amazon stated it has over 750 workers engaged on Kuiper, up from 500 or so just a few months in the past, and plans “so as to add a whole lot extra to the staff within the coming 12 months.”

Orbital testing

Amazon explains the test sequence for its prototype satellites.

Amazon explains the check sequence for its prototype satellites.

After launching the 2 deliberate prototype satellites, Amazon stated it should acquire “efficiency, diagnostic, and telemetry knowledge from satellite tv for pc bus and payload elements” and “acquire knowledge from its floor station antennas, together with buyer terminals and gateway and TT&C Earth stations.”

Listed below are just a few particulars from Amazon’s FCC submitting on how the satellites will talk with person terminals:

The KuiperSats can be geared up with three phased array antennas for buyer terminal hyperlinks—two for transmit and one for obtain communications. The phased array antennas will every produce unbiased steerable beams that can be used to trace the client terminal all through a satellite tv for pc cross. The KuiperSats will transmit a number of 100 MHz large carriers throughout the 17.8-18.6 GHz band and can obtain transmissions from buyer terminals within the 28.6-29.1 GHz band. The KuiperSat buyer terminal beams can be enabled when the satellites are above the client terminal Earth stations’ minimal elevation angle of 35 levels.

“All the programs are testing nicely in simulated and lab settings, and we’ll quickly be able to see how they carry out in area. There isn’t a substitute for on-orbit testing, and we count on to study quite a bit given the complexity and danger of working in such a difficult setting,” Challenge Kuiper VP of Expertise Rajeev Badyal stated in Amazon’s announcement in the present day.

ABL to be long-term launch accomplice

Whereas Amazon does not have its personal rockets like SpaceX does, Amazon stated it’s “impressed by ABL’s distinctive capabilities” and expects “a long-term relationship” with its newly introduced launch accomplice. (Amazon may ultimately use rockets from Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin firm.)

“With a one-ton-plus payload capability, RS1 delivers the precise capability and cost-efficiency to help our mission profile,” Amazon stated. “ABL’s RS1 and GS0 launch system are additionally totally containerized and cellular, offering the velocity and adaptability to help these early launches. We now have been working carefully with the ABL staff for a number of months and already accomplished two integration design opinions—together with plans for a novel adapter design. We’ll conduct an preliminary match examine early subsequent 12 months.”