Amazon aims to launch the first two prototype satellites for its massive Project Kuiper broadband constellation in 2022.
The two spacecraft, known as KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, will take off from Florida Cape Canaveral Space Force Station by the fourth quarter of next year, if all goes according to plan, the company announced today (November 1).
The duo will test a key technology for Kuiper Project, a constellation in low Earth orbit (LEO) that Amazon plans to eventually include more than 3,200 satellites.
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“We have invented many new technologies to meet our cost and performance targets for the Kuiper Project. All systems are well tested in simulated and lab environments, and we will soon be ready to see how they perform in space, ”Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for the Kuiper project, said in a press release.
“There is no substitute for in-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a difficult environment,” said Badyal. “We can’t wait to get started.”
KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will reach orbit via RS1, a new rocket developed by ABL Space Systems, based in California. Amazon also announced today that it has signed a multiple launch agreement with ABL to deliver these first launches of the Kuiper Project.
The 88-foot-tall (27-meter) RS1 is capable of throwing 2,975 pounds (1,350 kilograms) of payload at LEO, according to its ABL specifications page. ABL charges $ 12 million for each launch of the two-stage rocket. The RS1 has yet to fly, but ABL has announced plans to make a first launch from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. before the end of 2021.
Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it had signed an agreement with the United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas V rocket will be Operational loft Project Kuiper craft on nine different launches.
The Kuiper Project is not the only broadband constellation planned in the works. For example, SpaceX has already launched more than 1,700 spacecraft for its Star link network, which could eventually include tens of thousands of satellites. And OneWeb has raised more than half of the 648 spacecraft that will make up its initial constellation.
Such mega-constellation plans worry Dark Sky Defenders and professional astronomers, who have been surprised and dismayed by the brightness of SpaceX’s Starlink satellites. Amazon says it will take action to minimize the impact of Project Kuiper on the night sky.
“For example, one of the two prototype satellites will include a lens hood to help us understand if this is an effective way to reduce reflectivity and mitigate its impact on optical telescopes on the ground.” , wrote representatives of the company in the same press release. “We will collect data to compare the reflectivity between the two spacecraft and share any learning with the astronomical community after the mission.”
Mike Wall is the author of “The low“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about finding alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Where Facebook.