Amazon said Monday its "Project Kuiper" project will launch its first two broadband satellites into orbit during the fourth quarter of 2022, setting up a future competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its "Starlink" internet initiative.
The e-commerce giant said its launch of the prototype satellites, dubbed KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, is "an important step in the development process" that will test its networking technology and provide key information for future launches. Amazon detailed its plans for the launch in an experimental license application with the Federal Communications Commission.
"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," said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper. "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."
Amazon plans to launch a total of 3,236 satellites into orbit in the coming years as part of an initiative it says will "provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world." The company has committed at least $10 billion in funding toward Project Kuiper. The FCC first authorized the launch plan in July 2020.
The team working on the prototype satellites will also conduct "experimental tests using prototypes of our low-cost customer terminal," according to Amazon. The satellites will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper is a direct competitor to SpaceX’s Starlink, another emerging broadband internet provider. SpaceX officials say the Starlink system will eventually "provide high-speed, low-latency broadband connectivity across the globe, including to locations where internet has traditionally been too expensive, unreliable, or entirely unavailable."
Starlink is already conducting an open beta test of its system in 14 countries. SpaceX has received approval to launch about 12,000 satellites.