Amazon is preparing to launch a pair of prototype low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites as it edges closer to bringing “affordable broadband” to more people globally.
The company also confirmed that its first production satellites will be sent into space in the first half of 2024, with some early commercial customers being able to join the beta testing program by the end of next year.
The LEO satellite broadband program, Project Kuiper, will have more than 3,200 satellites sharing Internet connections with terminals on the ground in six years’ time.
Amazon is gearing up to take on Starlink
Starlink, headed up by Elon Musk, already has around 5,000 satellites in low Earth orbit and has rolled out to residential and commercial customers.
Speaking of the benefits of real-life testing after years of lab-based tests, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, Rajeev Badyal, said: “This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”
Amazon will use an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) to send its first pair of satellites up to an altitude of 500km, around 50km lower than Starlink’s satellites.
The Protoflight mission will test LEO broadband satellites, customer terminals, and a ground-based communications network in real-life conditions. This will involve communicating with the satellites, deploying solar arrays for power generation, and plenty of back-and-forth data test with its ground-based hardware.
The company confirmed: “At the end of the mission, we plan to actively deorbit both satellites before they ultimately burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere—part of our commitment to space safety.”
It’s too early to confirm how much Amazon’s LEO broadband will cost, but Starlink is currently priced at $120 / £75 / AU$139 per month for residential setups, and an additional one-off $599 / £449 / AU$599 payment to cover the cost of the receiver and other hardware.
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With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!
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