Amazon launches Project Kuiper “protoflight mission” on Friday

  • Amazon’s play to beam internet connectivity from space to Earth sees its first test mission launching this week.
  • Project Kuiper’s protoflight mission will focus largely on testing the systems in play there.
  • Once tests are complete, the satellites will be decommissioned and burn up upon reentry.

Last month Vodacom and Vodafone announced that the pair of firms would be leaning on Amazon and its Project Kuiper to extend 4G and 5G networks without having to lay kilometres of cabling.

This week, Project Kuiper’s first mission launches although it’s really just a test to make sure things work as expected. Dubbed a Protoflight, Project Kuiper will be testing its technology and gathering data.

“We’ve done extensive testing here in our lab and have a high degree of confidence in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for on-orbit testing,” explains Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology at Project Kuiper. “This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”

Two satellites – KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 – will travel 500km into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket. That launch is scheduled for 20:00 SAST on Friday and there is a two-hour window in which Project Kuiper can launch.

Once in orbit, the firm will conduct a series of tests including testing of the various systems and subsystems that the satellites use. The firm adds that it will establish contact with the satellites using telemetry, tracking, and communications. The test will also see the satellites deploying their solar arrays to generate power so that the firm can determine whether all systems are working nominally.

Once the test is complete, the satellites will be decommissioned and return to Earth. Project Kuiper notes that the satellites will burn up in Earth’s atmosphere safely upon re-entry.

“I’m proud of the entire Project Kuiper team for getting us to this point and grateful for their contributions. The hard work that goes into building a new space system from scratch is tremendous, but this team has dedicated themselves to the goal of delivering affordable broadband to those who need it,” Badyal concludes.

The launch will be broadcast on United Launch Alliance’s YouTube channel.

[Image – United Launch Alliance]


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