United Launch Alliance has reported the successful launch of Amazon’s initial foray into satellite technology. The aerospace manufacturer’s Atlas V rocket flawlessly delivered the first pair of Project Kuiper satellites into low Earth orbit on Friday. Dubbed Protoflight, the mission commenced at 2:06 PM ET, departing from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Amazon has dedicated considerable effort to Project Kuiper, an endeavor akin to SpaceX’s Starlink, aimed at providing global internet coverage via satellites. The original plan was to launch prototypes by the end of the previous year.
Protoflight holds great significance for Amazon, serving as a vital learning experience. It offers the opportunity to gather real-world data from space, complementing insights gleaned from laboratory and field tests. Amazon seeks to gain a deeper understanding of how its network performs in both terrestrial and space environments. Additionally, the mission serves as a testbed for satellite processing, launch procedures, and mission operations. Following its conclusion, Amazon intends to actively deorbit both satellites to ensure their safe disposal in Earth’s atmosphere.
Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, emphasized the importance of on-orbit testing, stating, “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.”
Project Kuiper’s overarching goal is to offer fast, affordable broadband connectivity to underserved and unserved communities worldwide. Following approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Amazon plans to deploy over 3,200 satellites over the next six years, with the KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 prototypes marking the initial steps. Production satellites are expected to launch in the first half of 2024, and beta tests with select customers are slated to commence by the end of the following year.
If you missed the launch, you can catch a replay of the livestream, with the rocket’s liftoff occurring at approximately 26:05 into the video.