Amazon Launches First Prototypes for Global Satellite Internet Network

Amazon, Project Kuiper, satellites, internet network

Amazon launched the first prototypes for its Project Kuiper satellite internet system Friday (Oct. 6), moving forward in its plan to create a global satellite internet network.

“The launch today started a new phase of our Protoflight mission, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s an exciting milestone all the same,” Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, said in a Friday press release. “I’m tremendously grateful to the Project Kuiper team for their dedication in getting us to this point, and to our partners at United Launch Alliance who helped us deploy our first spacecraft ever into orbit.” 

The goal of Project Kuiper is to establish a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit, providing high-speed internet access to remote areas worldwide, CNBC reported Friday. 

The launch of the prototypes allows for on-orbit testing, ensuring the effectiveness of the satellite design, according to the report. 

The launch was enabled by United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, which carried the two demonstration satellites, named Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, the report said. 

Despite facing challenges, such as switching rides for the satellites twice before settling on the Atlas V rocket, Amazon said it remains committed to investing over $10 billion in building the Kuiper network, per the report. 

Amazon faces tough competition from SpaceX, which has already launched its Starlink satellite internet service and has a customer base of over 2 million, according to the report. However, Amazon plans to catch up by launching its first production of Kuiper satellites in the first half of next year. Beta testing with customers is expected to begin by the end of 2024. 

To support its satellite network, Amazon has developed satellite antennas that it plans to sell to Kuiper customers, the report said. These antennas have demonstrated download speeds of up to 400 Mbps during field testing. 

Amazon’s main Kuiper facilities are located near Seattle, with additional locations in San Diego, Austin, New York City, and Washington, D.C., per the report.

When announcing the launch of the project in 2019, Amazon said it aims to serve tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet.