- Parabolic Arc
- November 29, 2023
Amazon Unveils Ground Terminals for Project Kuiper as Launch of First Satellites Approaches
WASHINGTON — With the pending launch of the first two prototype satellites, Amazon lifted the curtain on its 3,236 Project Kuiper broadband constellation during the Satellite 2023 Conference.
Dave Limp, senior vice president for devices and services, unveiled three terminals for different users of the 3,236 satellite constellation. The smallest one designed for residential customers measures 7 in (17.8 cm) square, weight less than 1 lb (453.6 g) and will offer speeds up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).
A larger terminal designed for residences and small business will measure 11 inches (27.9 cm) square and weight less than 5 lbs (2.27 kg). It will be capable of delivering speeds up to 400 Mbps and cost less than $400 apiece.
The largest terminal will measure 19 x 30 inches (48.3 x 76.2 cm) and deliver speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). It is designed for enterprise, government and telecommunications applications.
Project Kuiper is set to launch its first two test satellites aboard the maiden flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket on May 4th. Limp said the two spacecraft are being shipped to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for integration with the launch vehicle.
Limp said Project Kuiper would begin launching production satellites in 2024. They will also begin to beta test the system with customers next year. Limp added that Project Kuiper expects to have half of its more than 3,000 satellites in orbit in 2026.
Amazon is spending more than $10 billion on Project Kuiper, which is designed to compete with other satellite broadband constellations. Some of these satellite networks are already being deployed, while others are on drawing boards across the world.
SpaceX has launched more than 4,000 Starlink satellites and has more than 1 million customers worldwide. During a panel discussion earlier this week, SpaceX Vice President for Commercial Sales Jonathan Hofeller said the company is now producing six satellites and thousands of user terminals per day.
In addition to providing broadband services, Hofeller said Starlink will supplement the capacity of terrestrial cell phone towers as well as provide low-latency service to cell phones. SpaceX will begin testing these capabilities with partner T-Mobile later this year.
Starlink has progressed from Version 1 through Version 1.5 satellites. The company recently launched the first batch of Version 2 minis, which have about four times the capacity of earlier spacecraft.
SpaceX plans to manufacture larger versions of the Version 2 Starlink satellites. Launching them is largely dependent upon the success of SpaceX’s massive Starship/Super Heavy booster, which is being developed at the company’s Starbase facility in south Texas. The two-stage system is being designed to be fully reusable with rapid, airplane like turnarounds between flights.
Founder Elon Musk had previously said he expected the maiden flight of Starship/Super Heavy this month. More recently he said he expected the flight to take place within the next month, indicating a potential slip into April.
OneWeb moved within one launch of providing global broadband service on March 9 when a SpaceX Falcon 9 launched 40 of the company’s broadband satellites into orbit. The launch raised the total number of OneWeb satellites in orbit to 582. The full constellation will have 648 spacecraft.
India’s SLV booster is set to launch 36 OneWeb satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on March 26.
OneWeb announced a $3.4 billion merger with Eutelsat last July. The merger would combine the capabilities of OneWeb’s low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation with Eutelsat’s broadcast satellites in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO). The merger is currently undergoing regulatory review.
OneWeb and Intelsat also signed a global distribution partnership agreement to offer inflight connectivity to airlines worldwide. That agreement would also couple OneWeb’s LEO satellites with Intelsat’s GEO capabilities.
Chinese and Russian companies are also planning to launch large broadband constellations. The Chinese venture will have more than 13,000 satellites.