- In 2022, Amazon plans to launch the first two prototype satellites for its massive Project Kuiper broadband constellation.
- KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will be launched into orbit by the RS1, a new rocket manufactured by ABL Space Systems in California.
- Amazon has said that it will take steps to reduce the impact of Project Kuiper on the night sky.
Project Kuiper to launch next year
In 2022, Amazon plans to launch the first two prototype satellites for its massive Project Kuiper broadband constellation.
If all goes as planned, the two spacecraft, known as KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in the fourth quarter of next year (Nov. 1).
The pair will put essential technologies to the test for Project Kuiper, a low-Earth orbit (LEO) constellation that Amazon hopes will eventually include more than 3,200 satellites.
“We’ve invented lots of new technology to meet our cost and performance targets for Project Kuiper. All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we’ll soon be ready to see how they perform in space,” Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, said in a statement.
“There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment,” Badyal said. “We can’t wait to get started.”
Multi-launch agreement with ABL
KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will be launched into orbit by the RS1, a new rocket manufactured by ABL Space Systems in California. Amazon also announced that it has entered into a multi-launch agreement with ABL to supply these early Project Kuiper launches.
According to the ABL specs page, the 88-foot-tall (27-meter) RS1 is capable of launching 2,975 pounds (1,350 kg) of cargo to LEO. Each launch of the two-stage rocket will cost ABL $12 million. The RS1 has not yet flown, although ABL has stated that it plans to launch it from Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport Complex by the end of 2021.
Amazon to reduce impact on night sky
Amazon revealed earlier this year that it had inked a contract with United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas V rocket will hoist operational Project Kuiper probes on nine different missions.
Project Kuiper isn’t the only proposed broadband constellation. SpaceX, for example, has already launched over 1,700 spacecraft for its Starlink network, which may potentially contain tens of thousands of satellites. Furthermore, OneWeb has launched more than half of the 648 spacecraft that will comprise its inaugural constellation. Such intentions scare dark-sky activists and professional astronomers, who have been taken aback by the brightness of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Amazon has said that it will take steps to reduce the impact of Project Kuiper on the night sky.