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Amazon Kuiper satellites to launch on October 6


Amazon is poised to introduce its Kuiper satellites into orbit as it readies for the launch of the first two satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, under its Protoflight mission scheduled for liftoff on October 6. Amazon’s Project Kuiper serves as the company’s response to SpaceX’s Starlink service. The grand scheme involves launching 3,200 satellites over the next six years to establish a constellation capable of providing internet connectivity to remote areas inaccessible to traditional providers.

KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 represent the initial iteration of Amazon’s satellite technology, offering a crucial learning opportunity. They will facilitate a series of tests that yield valuable real-world data, complementing existing laboratory research. Additionally, Project Kuiper’s ground team will assess network performance during Protoflight, examining satellite connectivity with Kuiper’s ground-based infrastructure and customer terminals. This mission will also serve as a launch operations trial for subsequent satellites.

Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, emphasized the significance of on-orbit testing, saying, “We’ve done extensive testing here in our lab and have a high degree of confidence in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for on-orbit testing. This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”

Initially slated for launch atop a ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket, the satellites faced delays due to the rocket’s development. Consequently, they will be transported to space aboard an Atlas V instead. ULA will deploy the satellites at an altitude of 311 miles, where the Kuiper team will commence onboard system testing, ensure electronic functionality, establish initial contact, and deploy the satellites’ solar arrays. Subsequently, data transmission will verify network performance, with both satellites slated for deorbiting upon mission completion.

Amazon remains on track to launch its first production satellites in the first half of 2024, followed by beta testing for commercial consumers later that year. Adjustments to plans may be made based on insights from this launch. The event on October 6 will be live-streamed by ULA, with coverage beginning at 2 PM ET.

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