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Amazon boosts its satellite internet network with the help of space lasers

Project Kuiper plans to create a mesh network of high-speed laser cross-links.


Space lasers, once a mere futuristic joke, have become a real tool in building technology up there and making improvements for all of us down here. There's been NASA's use of space lasers to study plankton, plans to blast space junk and, now, a satellite network courtesy of Amazon. The company has announced that its Project Kuiper has built up its optical inter-satellite links (OISLs) capabilities to create a substantial mesh network of high-speed laser cross-links. This technology could result in faster data transmission to even the most remote places back on earth.

In October, Amazon launched two prototype satellites and reported successful tests one month later, with the pair dispatching and retrieving data at speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second. "These tests demonstrated our ability to establish a single bi-directional link between two satellites, and initial data indicates that our design will be able to maintain cross-links between multiple satellites at once—the critical feature of a next-generation mesh network in space," the company stated.

To successfully use OISLs, laser links had to maintain contact at a distance up to 1,616 miles while also contending with spacecrafts moving at a speed of 15,534 miles per hour. Plus, Amazon had to minimize light spreading in order to maintain the signal and account for any additional dynamics of all these moving pieces — something it says has been successfully done.

Amazon also claims the mesh network moves data about 30 percent faster than terrestrial fiber optic cables can. "Amazon's optical mesh network will provide multiple paths to route data through space, creating resiliency and redundancy for customers who need to securely transport information around the world," Ricky Freeman, vice president of Kuiper Government Solutions, explained in a statement. "This is especially important for those looking to avoid communications architectures that can be intercepted or jammed, and we look to forward to making these capabilities available to public sector customers looking to move and land data from remote locations to their desired destination." Basically, anyone from a cruise ship passenger to a multi-day hiker should be able to get a connection if this is successful.

Project Kuiper started in 2019 but has seen a real boost in the last few months. With these successful tests completed, Amazon states that Project Kuiper is starting satellite production, with "full-scale deployment" beginning in the first half of 2024. It also predicts that early customer pilots will begin in the second half of the year. Notably, Amazon signed a deal with SpaceX to launch more Project Kuiper satellites at a faster rate.