Amazon recently launched prototype satellites for its planned Kuiper internet network, which is set to rival SpaceX’s Starlink service.
The tech giant has revealed that the on the 6th of October at 2:06pm EDT, an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.
The rocket was carrying two prototype satellites from Amazon’s Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit satellite broadband initiative, into space before deploying them at an altitude of 500 kilometres above Earth, marking the start of Amazon’s “Protoflight” mission.
The mission’s aim is to test Amazon’s first pieces of technology in space as the company looks to deploy 3 236 more satellites in the next few years and offer broadband internet globally, which is a feat Elon Musk’s SpaceX is targeting with its nearly 5 000 Starlink satellites in orbit, according to Reuters. “We hit our first major mission milestone at 2:53pm EDT, when our mission operations centre in Redmond, Washington, confirmed first contact with KuiperSat-2,” says Amazon.
The company went on to state that this is when the satellite and one of their telemetry, tracking and control antennas established a telemetry link for the first time. They made first contact with KuiperSat-1 at 2:54pm EDT.
Amazon has mentioned that first contact is one of several key steps in its Protoflight mission. It allows Amazon to begin downlinking data on satellite health and establish more regular communications with the satellites.
Rajeev Badyal, who is the vice-president of technology for Project Kuiper, said that the launch started a new phase of their Protoflight mission, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s an exciting milestone all the same.
“I’m tremendously grateful to the Project Kuiper team for their dedication in getting us to this point, and to our partners at ULA who helped us deploy our first spacecraft ever into orbit.” – Badyal added.
“This initial launch is the first step in support of deployment of Amazon’s initiative to provide fast, affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” says Gary Wentz, ULA vice-president of government and commercial programmes.
“We have worked diligently in partnership with the Project Kuiper team to launch this important mission that will help connect the world. We look forward to continuing and building on the partnership for future missions.”