The prototypes, charmingly named Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, will be riding into orbit on a Vulcan Centaur rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA) in early 2023.
The company says the launch will let it perform tests on its satellite network technology with data from space and that the data will “help finalize design, deployment, and operational plans for our commercial satellite system.”
The timeframe marks a slight delay from Amazon’s original plan; last year, the company announced it would launch the prototypes in Q4 of 2022, using a completely different rocket from a company called ABL Space Systems.
Amazon has not actually finished building the satellites, which its press release says will be completed later this year. The rocket is also not ready yet as the Vulcan is having a Kolinahr. ULA expects to have Vulcan fully assembled by November and tested by December — for now, though, it still has to install the engines which strikes us as being a crucial feature.
ULA has to launch Vulcan twice before Q4 2023 to prove that it’s reliable enough to carry out missions for the US Space Force. Meanwhile, Amazon has to launch half of its satellites by 2026 to keep its FCC license. Amazon’s constellation is set to be made up of 3,236 satellites, that’s going to require quite a few launches in the next few years. Thirty-eight of them are set to use the Vulcan, while several others will be with rockets from Arianespace and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Once its fleet of satellites is in orbit, Amazon says its plan is to “deliver fast, affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world.” It also has an agreement with Verizon to act as a backhaul for remote LTE or 5G cell towers.