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Amazon to launch first two Project Kuiper satellites in late 2022

Project Kuiper, Amazon's satellite broadband initiative, will take to the skies with two prototype satellites in the fourth quarter of next year.


Satellite internet, often a last resort for internet connectivity in rural areas, is getting a much-needed makeover thanks in part to Amazon's low Earth orbit initiative, Project Kuiper. The new broadband service is intended to deliver affordable, low-latency, high-speed internet access to unserved or underserved areas around the world.

As we've seen with the similar satellite broadband startup Starlink, a home internet service requires hundreds of satellites to reach a significant coverage area. Amazon recently received Federal Communications Commission approval to launch 3,236 low Earth orbit satellites for Project Kuiper, and we now know the first two will launch sometime in the fourth quarter of 2022.

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The satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will reach low Earth orbit on board ABL Space Systems' new RS-1 rocket. Amazon introduced the satellites as "an important step in the development process" that will allow for testing designed to improve the launch, operation and performance of future satellites. 

And while there has been plenty of testing on the ground, the vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, Rajeev Badyal, acknowledges "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."

The prototype satellites are built to be just that -- prototypes -- and aren't intended to deliver home internet service. In fact, once the mission is complete, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will fall out of orbit and meet an "atmospheric demise" with added measures to mitigate the risk of orbital debris

The news of a Project Kuiper satellite launch is exciting, but don't look forward to canceling with your internet provider just yet. Amazon needs a minimum of 578 satellites in low Earth orbit before the service is available to consumers. Still, launching the first two will be a major milestone for Project Kuiper and another significant step toward easing the broadband digital divide.