Amazon's Project Kuiper satellites prepare for testing after one late Prime delivery

If all goes well, production to start 'before the end of the year'

Amazon's Project Kuiper has continued to make progress as its pair of prototype satellites get ready to route internet data.

KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 were launched on the Protoflight mission atop an Atlas V at the beginning of October. The two mark the much-delayed start of the construction of Amazon's low-latency satellite broadband service.

In an update, Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper's vice president of technology, confirmed the satellites were stable, generating power, and communicating with Earth. He said: "We're already learning a lot from this mission that will inform further improvements to our production systems."

The next step is for Amazon's cloud biz to perform end-to-end testing of the data network, which will involve routing internet data through AWS to the satellites via a ground antenna and down to a customer terminal. The process will then be reversed to check data flows as expected in the other direction.

Amazon said: "Learnings from the mission will help refine the hardware, software, and infrastructure that underpin the Kuiper System."

Those lessons will need to be swift if Amazon is to launch half of the thousands of satellites required for its constellation. According to Amazon, production of the satellites in Kirkland, Washington, has yet to kick off. It should begin by the end of the year, in parallel with the Protoflight mission.

The first production satellites are set to be launched in the first half of 2024. Amazon has set the ambitious goal of entering beta testing with early commercial customers in the second half of that year.

While its progress is to be applauded, Amazon is very late to the satellite broadband game. The first two Starlink demo satellites, dubbed Tintin A & B, were launched in February 2018, and the first batch of operational satellites were sent to orbit just over a year later. At the time of writing, more than 5,000 satellites have been launched, and nearly 5,000 remain in orbit, according to figures collected by astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell.

In light of the gap between the launch of Starlink's test and operational satellites, Amazon's aim to get the first production Project Kuiper satellites into orbit in the first half of 2024 is nothing if not ambitious. ®

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