Amazon has hit another milestone on the way to its goal of putting 3,236 low Earth orbit to blanket most of the planet with internet access. On Monday, the company filed a license application with the Federal Communications Commission to launch two prototype satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2. They will feature many of the technologies the company plans to include in the final production variant of its constellation satellite, giving it the chance to test how those systems fare outside of a lab environment. At the same time, the tests will allow it to validate its launch procedures and mission management when it comes time to start putting its full network in orbit.
"We’ve invented lots of new technology to meet our cost and performance targets for Project Kuiper. All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we’ll soon be ready to see how they perform in space," said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper. "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."
According to Amazon, it will launch KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 toward the end of 2022. Once the test is complete, the company plans to deorbit the satellites so they don’t add to the . Additionally, one of the satellites will feature a sunshade so Amazon can see if it helps make it less reflective and thereby less visible to telescopes on the ground.
With today’s announcement, Amazon shared it’s working with ABL Space Systems to put KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 in space. The company’s new RS1 rocket will ferry the satellites to orbit. One of the main design features of Amazon’s Kuiper craft is that they’re compatible with multiple launch systems, including the rocket from United Launch Alliance.
Once it completes the test, Amazon will need to move quickly to put the entire system into space. When the FCC , the company said it would put half the satellites in orbit by 2026 and the entire constellation by July 30th, 2029.