Amazon’s satellite tv for pc launch schedule places it almost 4 years behind Starlink

From Amazon’s lab to area —

Amazon says it’s going to check Kuiper broadband satellites in area late subsequent yr.

Jon Brodkin

Illustration of a rocket with an Amazon logo rising above the clouds.

Enlarge / Illustration of an ABL RS1 rocket that can 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 utility with the Federal Communications Fee (FCC) to launch, deploy, and function two prototype satellites for Undertaking Kuiper,” Amazon mentioned in a weblog put up. “These satellites—KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2—are an vital step within the growth course of. They permit us to check the communications and networking know-how that shall be utilized in our ultimate satellite tv for pc design, and assist us validate launch operations and mission administration procedures that shall be used when deploying our full constellation.”

Amazon mentioned it’s going to launch the satellites from Cape Canaveral House Power Station in Florida on ABL House Programs’ RS1 rocket, as a part of a multilaunch deal the businesses introduced right now. Amazon’s prototype satellites will function at an altitude of 590 km.

“Whereas working below 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 models and a single gateway Earth station positioned in McCulloch, Texas,” Amazon instructed the FCC.

SpaceX launched prototypes in February 2018

Amazon beforehand mentioned it would not anticipate to launch any satellites till 2023 on the earliest. The anticipated This autumn 2022 launch of prototype satellites would not change that timeline for manufacturing satellites, which could not be launched till a yr 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 Could 2019. The Starlink public beta started in October 2020, and the service simply exited beta throughout the previous few days.

If Amazon follows an identical timeline, which is not any given, its first manufacturing satellites would launch in late 2023 or early 2024. Precise service can be accessible 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 mentioned 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 further capability.” Amazon mentioned it has over 750 staff engaged on Kuiper, up from 500 or so a number of months in the past, and plans “so as to add a whole bunch extra to the workforce within the coming yr.”

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 mentioned it’s going to accumulate “efficiency, diagnostic, and telemetry knowledge from satellite tv for pc bus and payload elements” and “accumulate knowledge from its floor station antennas, together with buyer terminals and gateway and TT&C Earth stations.”

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

The KuiperSats shall 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 shall be used to trace the shopper terminal all through a satellite tv for pc move. The KuiperSats will transmit a number of 100 MHz huge 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 shall be enabled when the satellites are above the shopper terminal Earth stations’ minimal elevation angle of 35 levels.

“All the techniques 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 any substitute for on-orbit testing, and we anticipate to study lots given the complexity and danger of working in such a difficult setting,” Undertaking Kuiper VP of Know-how Rajeev Badyal mentioned in Amazon’s announcement right now.

ABL to be long-term launch companion

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

“With a one-ton-plus payload capability, RS1 delivers the fitting capability and cost-efficiency to assist our mission profile,” Amazon mentioned. “ABL’s RS1 and GS0 launch system are additionally totally containerized and cell, offering the pace and suppleness to assist these early launches. We have now been working intently with the ABL workforce for a number of months and already accomplished two integration design opinions—together with plans for a novel adapter design. We are going to conduct an preliminary match examine early subsequent yr.”