A month after the launch of its first prototype Project Kuiper satellites, Amazon reports that the spacecraft have demonstrated controlled maneuvering in orbit using their custom-built electric propulsion systems.
“A recent series of test firings provided critical on-orbit data to further validate our satellite design, with each test returning nominal results consistent with our design requirements,” Amazon said today in an online status report.
Today’s report suggest that Amazon’s Project Kuiper team — which is headquartered in Redmond, Wash. — is on track in its multibillion-dollar effort to create a 3,236-satellite constellation that would eventually provide broadband internet access for millions of people around the globe.
The two prototypes, known as KuiperSat 1 and 2, were sent into orbit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Oct. 6. They’re designed to test the hardware as well as the software, ground-based facilities and procedures that will be used for the full constellation. Amazon says that the first operational satellites are due to be launched early next year, and that beta service to selected enterprise customers could begin by the end of 2024.
At least half of the 3,236 satellites will have to be placed in orbit by mid-2026 to satisfy the requirements of Amazon’s license from the Federal Communications Commission. Mass production is due to begin by the end of the year at Amazon’s factory in Kirkland, Wash., at a rate that Amazon says will eventually ramp up to as many as four satellites per day. So, it’s in Amazon’s interest to make sure the design is fine-tuned as soon as possible.