Amazon shows off smaller lighter satellite broadband terminals for its Starlink rival

Amazon also won't solely rely on Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin rockets to launch its constellation.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Amazon has revealed the design of its Project Kuiper end-user terminals, highlighting their low cost and compactness as a key feature. 

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who is currently building his Starlink constellation of satellites to beam down broadband, has said making the end-user terminals affordable for consumers was its biggest challenge. The Starlink terminal is 48cm (18.9-inches) in diameter whereas Amazon's prototype phased array terminal is just 30cm (12-inches) in diameter, which Amazon boasts "smaller and lighter than legacy antenna designs". The smaller size will help it reduce manufacturing costs. 

"If you want to make a difference for unserved and underserved communities, you need to deliver service at a price that makes sense for customers," said Rajeev Badyal, VP of technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon

"This simple fact inspired one of our key tenets for Kuiper: to invent a light, compact phased array antenna that would allow us to produce an affordable customer terminal. It's incredible to see such a small form factor delivering this type of speed and performance."

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Amazon reckons the smaller and lighter terminal will cut production costs by an "order of magnitude".

The FCC in July approved Amazon's plan to launch 3,236 satellites into low-Earth orbit at altitudes of 367 miles, (590km), 379 miles (610km) and 391 miles (630km). Amazon plans to invest $10bn in the project.

According to Amazon, its prototype is delivering speeds of up to 400 Mbps and promises speeds will only improve. 

While SpaceX is launching batches of 60 Starlink satellites on its own partially reusable Falcon 9 rockets, Amazon plans to use multiple launch providers despite Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' spaceflight company Blue Origin.

Amazon SVP of Devices & Services David Limp told TechCrunch that it was "launch agnostic".

"If you know somebody who has a rocket out there, give us a call," said Limp.

Blue Origin this October set a new record for recycling rockets after launching its New Shepard rocket for the 13th time.   

"One of the reasons we thought the time was right to do a constellation now is because of some of the dynamics happening in the launch industry," said Limp. 

"Every day, we see a new demonstration of reusability, every day we see new demonstrations of breakthroughs in better engines, whether that's Raptor [Space X's] or BE-4 [Blue Origin's]." 

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Amazon's antenna can stream 4K-quality video from a geostationary (GEO) satellite, which orbit Earth at an altitude of 22,236 miles (35,786 km). 

The FCC has demanded Amazon launch and operate half of its satellites by July 30, 2026 and then launch the remainder of the constellation by July 30, 2029.

Image: Amazon
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