Amazon’s Project Kuiper Internet Constellation satellites are being lifted for integration on ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket. Image: ULA This Friday, Amazon is making its debut, adding to its broad portfolio that includes online marketplace, video streaming, grocery and cloud services, with the launch of two prototype relay stations for a space-based Internet service it calls Project Kuiper.
The satellites, named KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, are scheduled to launch on Friday, Oct. 6, during a two-hour launch window that opens at 2 p.m. EDT (1600 UTC). They are going into low Earth orbit on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket.
This will be ULA’s 20th delivery to a non-governmental commercial customer. It is also the 99th launch of an Atlas 5 rocket to date and the 8th launch of the 501 configuration that does not use lateral solid boosters.
The rocket blasted off to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday morning.
About 18 minutes after liftoff, the pair of satellites will be positioned 311 miles, or 500 kilometers, above Earth at a 30-degree inclination, ULA said in a Sept. 29 blog post. At Amazon’s request, ULA will not provide live coverage after Centaur’s upper stage separates from the first stage.
The prototype duo won’t become a permanent part of the more than 3,200 satellites Amazon plans to deploy over six years starting in 2024. the first half of the year. The company said the test satellites would be ordered out of orbit. end of mission’, which should last one year.
During that time, Amazon will work on building full-production satellites while learning from demos.
“We’ve done extensive testing in our lab and are very confident in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for in-orbit testing,” Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, said in a statement. “This is the first time Amazon has put satellites into space, and we will learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission goes.”
Amazon said it had invested an initial $10 billion in the Kuiper project. Recent investments include their $120 million satellite processing facility being built at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Space Florida leased property and a new 172,000-square-foot factory in Kirkland, Washington, which Amazon says will produce five satellites a day.
Project Kuiper constellation
Amazon’s foray into the satellite Internet game puts it in direct competition with other large constellations of satellites, such as SpaceX’s Starlink service and the newly combined forces of Eutelsat and OneWeb, now collectively known as the Eutelsat Group.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has granted Amazon permission to deploy and operate its Ka-band, Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (NGSO) constellation (Kuiper-Ka system) consisting of 3,232 satellites. Their initial request was 3,236, but Amazon has asked to lower that number by 2023. February 28 filing
Based on 2019 According to information provided by the FCC, the satellites will operate in 98 orbital planes at altitudes of 590 km, 610 km and 630 km. The Kuiper System will use the 17.7-19.3 GHz frequency bands for client communications and the 19.3-20.2 GHz frequency bands with its 27.5-28.35 GHz gateway Earth stations.
The FCC has restricted activity in the 17.7-17.8 GHz band outside the US
With an initial offering of 3,236 satellites, Amazon intends to use the following elevations and inclinations:
Amazon noted in that document that customer service will begin after the deployment of the first 578 operational satellites, dubbed “Phase 1,” which will rise to an altitude of 630 km with an inclination of 51.9 degrees.
“Coverage begins at 56 degrees north and 56 degrees south latitude and rapidly expands toward the equator as more satellites are launched,” Amazon said in a statement. There are five phases to this initial collection of satellites.
The company said that by 2024 it expects to begin beta testing with early commercial customers by the end of the year.
In an FCC filing approving Kuiper Systems LLC’s Orbital Debris Reduction Plan, the agency said that Kuiper will have until Jan. 1 of each year. and July 1 must provide semiannual reports detailing things like the number of conjunction events (how often the Kuiper satellite comes close to another object in orbit) in each six-month period; how often and why satellites were decommissioned; and disposal failures.
Kuiper is also required to submit annual reports to the FCC regarding its cooperation with the National Space Foundation (NSF) on its efforts to mitigate impacts on optical astronomy.
Amazon is also committed to launching 50 percent of the maximum satellites offered and launching them no later than 2026. July 30, and the remaining satellites will be launched and operational by 2029. July 20
To do this, Amazon has agreed on 77 launches, including 92 launches between Arianespace, Blue Origin and ULA:
18 Ariane 6 launches (Arianespace) 12 new Glenn launches, with 15 more options (Blue Origin) 9 Atlas 5 launches (ULA) 38 Vulcan launches (ULA) Amazon awarded launch contracts with Arianespace, Blue Origin and ULA to launch their fleet of satellites. Image: Amazon Much remains a mystery
Many surrounding satellites of the Kuiper project remain a mystery. The company did not reveal key specifications, such as the dimensions of the satellites, nor did it release photos or renderings of the spacecraft themselves.
It confirmed that the two prototype satellites launched on Friday were manufactured at Amazon’s 219,000-square-foot factory in Redmond, Washington.
In preparation for the launch, Amazon shared a photo of satellite shipping containers with warning labels that read “Dangerous Velociraptor Containment: Carnivore Keepers Only 50 Feet Away.” One of the boxes also had claw mark stickers on it.
A pair of prototype spacecraft for the Amazon Project Kuiper Satellite Internet Constellation in their shipping containers. Image: Amazon But regulatory filings help fill in some of the blanks.
As for propulsion, Amazon has previously noted that each of the project’s Kuiper satellites uses a Hall effect engine, a type of ion engine in which propellant is accelerated by an electric field. A 2021 The FCC filing from Amazon stated that the rocket fuel is krypton, one of the noble gases.
Experimental Kuiper Hall Effect propulsion used in prototype Kuiper satellites. Image: Amazon The same paper stated that the launch of KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 would “directly inject both satellites at an altitude of 590 km at an inclination of 33 degrees” with an orbital period of 96.5 minutes. This information is different from the 30 degree tilt specified by ULA.
The prototype satellites will communicate with the Gateway Earth Station antenna located in McCulloch County, Texas, about 150 miles northwest of San Antonio. Amazon released a visual of its planned test sequence:
Infographic explaining the communication test sequence of our prototype satellites. Image: Amazon Each of the two prototype satellites has a series of antennas and receivers:
3 telemetry, tracking and control (TT&C) 2 Global Navigation Satellite System receivers (space-to-space navigation) L-band transmitters (transmitting position to satellites in the Globalstar NGSO Mobile Satellite Service constellation) 3 phased array antennas for customer terminal links (2 for transmission, 1 for communications receive) 3 parabolic antennas to communicate with gateway Earth stations As part of this mission, Amazon will also test customer terminals. The tech giant said it will “perform a powered deorbit at the end of the mission, which is expected to cause death within one year.” If that doesn’t work out, Amazon said passive deorbit will happen in about 3.5 years.
Amazon has said that when the service is available, it will provide “fast, affordable broadband from space,” but has not yet disclosed a price for the service.
Looking to future development
As it prepares for the first in-orbit demonstration of its satellite, Amazon is already looking ahead to future, further expansion.
A 2021 in November In an FCC filing, Amazon is seeking approval for its second-generation constellation using V- and Ku-band frequencies, dubbed the Kuiper-V system.
The proposal notes that it would consist of “7,774 satellites in five combinations of altitude and inclination between 590 and 650 km, including two polar shells.”
The company says expanding satellite Internet service “from pole to pole” would help meet the FCC’s goal of closing the digital divide.
“Amazon’s customer obsession and commitment to long-term initiatives makes it uniquely well-positioned to help expand broadband access to the tens of millions of customers around the world who currently lack quality connectivity,” Amazon said in a statement.
The first 3,236 Kuiper-V system satellites would complement the Kuiper-Ka system satellites with V-band payloads.
To date, the FCC has not made a decision on the Kuiper-V system expansion request.