Starlink’s satellites won’t be the only ones to orbit the Earth. Competitors to Elon Musk’s internet connection service have every intention of making their own offers, including Amazon.
Dubbed “Project Kuiper,” Amazon’s constellation of satellites is expected to take its first steps in the fourth quarter of next year. The company has applied for a license for an experimental launch with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Two prototypes, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will be launched by the RS1 rocket developed by the start-up ABL Space Systems from El Segundo, California.
More than 3,000 satellites around the Earth
These two prototypes are pale in the face of the ambition of the Kuiper project, which aims to crisscross low Earth orbit with 3,236 satellites, with the objective of achieving this in ten years. The proposal is the same as for Starlink: to offer high-speed, low-latency internet access in rural areas that are difficult to access for the infrastructures of traditional access providers.
Starlink is already well ahead of Kuiper, with a network of 1,700 satellites already in space (in the long term, it will be 12,000 satellites that the SpaceX subsidiary intends to send into orbit!) And the launch of a beta version of its internet connection service.
Amazon therefore has some catching up to do, but the e-commerce juggernaut has its pockets full, which allows it to refine its technology. The two prototypes, which will travel 590 kilometers from the cow floor, will test Kuiper’s network and communication capabilities. They will communicate for ten minute periods with four terminals and one station based in Texas.
The Kuiper teams have already carried out ground tests, they obtained a download speed of 400 Mbps. Starlink for its part promises a speed of 100 to 200 Mbps. At the same time, Amazon is looking to allay fears in the space community, announcing that the prototypes will not stay in space, but will be destroyed upon entering the atmosphere once they have completed their mission. A way of “cleaning” the Earth’s orbit.
Kuiper also indicates working with astronomers to reduce the visibility of its satellites, which may negatively impact the observation of space.