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Amazon launches satellites to rival Elon Musk’s Starlink

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 09 Oct 2023
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Protoflight mission for Amazon's Project Kuiper lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Photo by United Launch Alliance)
A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Protoflight mission for Amazon's Project Kuiper lifts off from Space Launch Complex-41. (Photo by United Launch Alliance)

Amazon on Friday launched prototype satellites for its planned Kuiper internet network, which is set to rival SpaceX’s Starlink service.

In a statement, the tech company says on 6 October at 2:06pm EDT, an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA) lifted off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

It carried two prototype satellites from Amazon’s Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit satellite broadband initiative, into space before deploying them at an altitude of 500 kilometres above Earth.

The launch marked the start of Amazon’s “Protoflight” mission.

According to Reuters, the mission aims to test Amazon’s first pieces of technology in space as the e-commerce and web services giant looks to deploy 3 236 more satellites in the next few years and offer broadband internet globally − a feat Elon Musk’s SpaceX is targeting with its nearly 5 000 Starlink satellites in orbit.

“We hit our first major mission milestone at 2:53pm EDT, when our mission operations centre in Redmond, Washington, confirmed first contact with KuiperSat-2,” says Amazon.

“This is when the satellite and one of our telemetry, tracking and control antennas established a telemetry link for the first time. We made first contact with KuiperSat-1 at 2:54pm EDT.”

The company adds that first contact is one of several key steps in its Protoflight mission. It allows Amazon to begin downlinking data on satellite health and establish more regular communications with the satellites.

“The launch started a new phase of our Protoflight mission, and there’s a long way to go, but it’s an exciting milestone all the same,” says Rajeev Badyal, vice-president of technology for Project Kuiper.

“I’m tremendously grateful to the Project Kuiper team for their dedication in getting us to this point, and to our partners at ULA who helped us deploy our first spacecraft ever into orbit.”

“This initial launch is the first step in support of deployment of Amazon’s initiative to provide fast, affordable broadband service to unserved and underserved communities around the world,” says Gary Wentz, ULA vice-president of government and commercial programmes.

“We have worked diligently in partnership with the Project Kuiper team to launch this important mission that will help connect the world. We look forward to continuing and building on the partnership for future missions.” 

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