In a blog post on Monday, Amazon said that the first critical steps of Kuiper’s Protoflight mission are complete. The satellites rode a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida into space Friday at 11:06 a.m. PT.
“There’s plenty of work ahead, but at this point in the mission, I’m thrilled to report that KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 are operating nominally,” Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, said in a statement. “The two satellites are stable in orbit, harvesting energy from the sun, and communicating across all links from Earth to space and space to Earth.”
Amazon plans to use the prototypes — which were built at Project Kuiper’s Redmond, Wash.-based headquarters — and the monthslong testing mission to test the hardware on the spacecraft, as well as ground operations and customer terminals.
“We’re already learning a lot from this mission that will inform further improvements to our production systems, and the team should be very proud of this milestone,” Badyal added.
Amazon said the next phase of the mission will be used to test its data network end to end. That involves routing data from the internet, through the company’s Amazon Web Services-powered ground network, from a ground gateway antenna up to the prototype satellites, and then down to customer terminal antennas at Amazon’s test site, as well as sending data in the other direction.
Satellite production will begin before the end of the year, in parallel with the Protoflight mission, according to Amazon. The first production satellites are planned for launch in the first half of 2024, and the company expects to enter beta testing with early commercial customers in the second half of next year.
The tech giant said it has committed $10 billion to getting Project Kuiper off the ground. More than 1,000 employees are said to be working on the project, and Amazon’s careers website lists an additional 200-plus open positions — with most of those positions based in Washington state.