Amazon announces plan to launch Project Kuiper test satellites with ABL Space Systems

amazon Project Kuiper on ABL RS1 rocket

Amazon’s Project Kuiper is getting closer to becoming a reality as the company is preparing to launch its first satellites. Monday, the tech giant announced those first test satellites for Project Kuiper would be launched using ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket.

The prototype Kuiper satellites are part of a multi-launch contract between Amazon and ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket.

ABL plans to launch the two Project Kuiper prototype satellites in the fourth quarter of 2022. The RS1 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida. The announcement came with an experimental license filing with the FCC for Amazon’s operation of the prototype satellites.

This contract with Amazon is a major bet on an early startup rocket company. We expect ABL’s first launch of an RS1 rocket no later than December 15 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska. However, we haven’t heard a lot from the company about it and time is running out.

Amazon taking a chance on young launcher

Amazon states ABL’s 1,000 kg payload capability is perfect for building out Kuiper’s constellation. Project Kuiper’s constellation consists of just over 3,000 satellites, fly at a 590 km orbit. However, Amazon is still plans to launch its first batches of operational satellites on ULA Atlas Vs and eventually Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket.

The launch of these two prototype satellites will allow Project Kuiper to test its sub-systems and technology on-orbit ahead of the service’s launch. SpaceX’s Starlink did a similar test with the two satellites named TinTin A and B launch back in February of 2018, alongside a PAZ satellite.

“There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment. We can’t wait to get started.”

Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper

Named KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, these two satellites will test the technology used on Amazon’s production satellites. This tech includes phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, and custom-designed modems.

Once the mission is complete, Amazon plans to deorbit the two satellites – making sure they don’t produce any space junk.

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