Amazon has announced its first Project Kuiper satellite prototypes will be launched in the fourth quarter of 2022.
The company said on Tuesday it had filed for an experimental licence with the US Federal Communications Commission to launch and operate a pair of satellites dubbed KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2. The prototypes will test the communications and networking that will be used in the final design, and will have Ka-band phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, and custom-designed modems.
"We've invented lots of new technology to meet our cost and performance targets for Project Kuiper. All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we'll soon be ready to see how they perform in space," vice president of technology for Project Kuiper Rajeev Badyal said.
"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."
Once the prototypes are operational, Amazon will test its customer terminal, which it said in December can deliver up to 400Mbps. Instead of having the receiving and transmission antennas next to each other, Amazon is overlaying the antennas which results in a final diameter of 30 centimetres.
Amazon said the prototypes will be actively deorbited once the mission is complete, and it was working with astronomers to reduce the visibility of the satellites that will make up the intended constellation of 3,236 low Earth orbit birds.
"One of the two prototype satellites will include a sunshade to help us understand whether it is an effective way to reduce reflectivity and mitigate its impact on ground-based optical telescopes," the company said.
"We will collect data to compare reflectivity between the two spacecraft, and share any learnings with the astronomy community following the mission."
The satellites will be launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station by ABL Space Systems, and not the Jeff Bezos-led Blue Origin.