Amazon Unveils Ground Terminals for Project Kuiper as Launch of First Satellites Approaches

Amazon Unveils Ground Terminals for Project Kuiper as Launch of First Satellites Approaches

WASHINGTON — With the launch of the first two prototype satellites pending, Amazon pulled back the curtain on its 3,236 Project Kuiper broadband constellation during the Satellite 2023 Conference.

Dave Limp, senior vice president for devices and services, released three terminals for various users of the 3,236 satellite constellation. The smallest designed for residential customers measures 7 in (17.8 cm) square, weighs less than 1 lb (453.6 g) and will offer speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps).

A larger terminal designed for homes and small businesses will measure 11 inches (27.9 cm) square and weigh less than 5 lbs (2.27 kg). It is capable of delivering speeds of up to 400 Mbps and costs less than $400 each.

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 business, government and telecommunications applications.

Project Kuiper is set to launch its first two test satellites aboard the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket on May 4th. Limp said the two spacecraft are being sent to the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for integration into the launch vehicle.

Limp said Project Kuiper will begin launching production satellites in 2024. They will also begin beta testing the system with customers next year. Limp added that Project Kuiper expects to have half of its more than 3,000 satellites in orbit by 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 have already been deployed, while others are on the drawing boards around 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 increase 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 evolved from Version 1 to Version 1.5 satellites. The company recently launched the first batch of Version 2 minis, which have nearly four times the capacity of the previous spacecraft.

SpaceX plans to build larger versions of the Version 2 Starlink satellite. Launching these depends largely on the success of SpaceX’s massive Starship/Super Heavy booster, which is being built at the company’s Starbase facility in south Texas. The two-stage system is designed to be fully reusable during quick, plane-like turnarounds between flights.

Founder Elon Musk previously said he expects the Starship/Super Heavy’s first flight this month. Most recently, he said he expects the flight to take place within the next month, indicating a potential April slip.

OneWeb moved within a 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 raises the total number of OneWeb satellites in orbit to 582. The entire constellation will have 648 spacecraft.

India’s SLV booster is scheduled to launch 36 OneWeb satellites from the Satish Dhawan Space Center on March 26.

OneWeb announced a $3.4 billion merger with Eutelsat in July. The merger will 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 will also integrate 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.