Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Amazon unveils more details about broadband Internet satellite service

Amazon shared a few announcements and updates on its planned Project Kuiper satellite Internet service at an annual space conference in Washington, D.C., this week.

Amazon’s Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Devices and Services, shared details about Project Kuiper on Tuesday during a general session at the Satellite 2023 Conference.

“We’ve made a lot of progress with just a piece of paper with an idea on it four years ago,” Limp said. “Amazon has never put anything into space. We didn’t know how to do it. We had to build a team.”

After years of development and testing, Limp was happy to report on Tuesday that the first two prototype satellites for Project Kuiper were put on a truck a couple days ago and are on their way to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for launch.

The satellites will be launched aboard the inaugural flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket, currently scheduled for May 4. The constellation will grow to 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit once complete. Amazon has reserved 77 launch vehicles for placing the constellation in orbit piece by piece.

The company said they will begin mass-producing the satellites by the end of the year. Production launches will begin next year, and customers will have access to the service by late 2024.

Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband Internet service to communities unserved or underserved by traditional communications technologies.

“Go 100 miles away from where we are right now and there are still people living on copper [wire] that was laid into the ground in the 50s and 60s and running at DSL [Internet] speeds,” Limp said. Project Kuiper sets out to provide much faster broadband Internet service to customers.

To use the service, customers will install an outdoor antenna—called a customer terminal—to communicate with satellites passing overhead. Traditionally, this equipment has been too large, too complex, and too expensive for many customers, making it difficult for low Earth orbit constellations to bridge the digital divide in a meaningful way.

At the conference, Limp provided a first look at three different-engineering models that would be provided to different customers of the service. One terminal is seven-inch square and slightly bigger than an Amazon Kindle. The largest terminal comes in at 11 inches square costing less than $400.

Amazon plans to invest over $10 billion in the project.

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