Amazon Deorbits Kuiper Prototypes as Full-Scale Satellite Network Nears

Amazon has initiated the deorbiting of its two prototype satellites from Project Kuiper following successful tests. This marks a significant step towards the full-scale deployment of its broadband internet constellation, aimed to rival SpaceX’s Starlink with over 3,000 satellites. Project Kuiper, a $10 billion initiative, aims to provide global high-speed internet from low Earth orbit. Although trailing SpaceX’s established Starlink network, which boasts over 3 million customers, Amazon has secured partnerships with Verizon and Vodafone.

Project Kuiper is Amazon’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite broadband network. Photo: Amazon

Launched last October, the Kuipersat prototypes tested hardware and software for the planned 3,232-satellite network, including data transmission for streaming video, Amazon purchases, and video calls. Additionally, Amazon trialed a laser communication system for inter-satellite data transfer. The deorbiting process, part of Amazon’s debris mitigation plan, started in late April. The satellites, initially at 311 miles high, have been gradually lowered to 285-292 miles and will continue to descend over the next four to six months. 

Amazon is scaling up production at a new factory in Kirkland, Washington, preparing to launch the first production satellites within months. The goal is to have sufficient satellites deployed by late 2024 to begin service demonstrations, with full network deployment expected by 2029.