Kuiper: More details emerge
March 20, 2023
The Jeff Bezos/Amazon-backed Project Kuiper broadband-by-satellite scheme has showcased its consumer terminal and added extra detail as to its plans. The Amazon team recently began development of a dedicated satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington, and expects to begin mass producing satellites by the end of 2023. Project Kuiper expects to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and plans to give its earliest customers access to the service beginning later that year.
Project Kuiper has plans to build a constellation of 3,236 satellites.
Amazon is telling its potential clients that it is working to bridge the digital divide by providing fast, affordable broadband access to tens of millions of people worldwide through a new low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network.
Its Project Kuiper network will allow people living in areas that are unserved or underserved by traditional communications technologies to take full advantage of the Internet. The project aims to open up limitless opportunities for education, business, and community growth, says Amazon.
Kuiper stresses that its engineers wanted lower-cost consumer equipment and with an overall cost of less than $500. “Such equipment historically has been too large, too complex, and too expensive for most households. That’s why the Kuiper team started with the goal of making the terminals smaller, affordable, and more capable,” says Kuiper.
Three versions will be available, best described as small, medium and large:
- ‘Small’ will be an ultra-compact version—7 inches square—will weigh just 1 pound and offers speeds of up to 100 Mbps at a lower price.
- ‘Medium’ will be the standard customer terminal which is less than 11 inches square and 1 inch thick, weighs less than 5 pounds, and delivers speeds up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps).
- ‘Large’ will be a high-bandwidth version designed for enterprise, government, and telecommunications applications will measure 19 inches by 30 inches, and deliver speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.
Amazon reminds potential customers that it has already built and shipped hundreds of millions of devices for customers, “including best-selling, low-cost products like Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick. Project Kuiper is applying that experience to its customer terminal design and production processes, and the team is already scaling its infrastructure in anticipation of building tens of millions of units for customers”.
Project Kuiper has secured up to 92 heavy-lift launches from Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance, providing enough capacity to deploy the majority of our satellite constellation. The agreements comprise the largest commercial procurement of launch capacity in history, and will support thousands of suppliers and highly skilled jobs across the US and Europe.
However, the Kuiper scheme is far from alone. While Elon Musk’s Starlink now has more than 1 million subscribers, there are also existing and well developed connections available from the likes of Hughes Network Systems and a growing presence from OneWeb.