Advanced Television

Kuiper ramps up satellite production

May 24, 2024

May 23rd saw Amazon announce that it had reached the ‘final milestone’ with its Project Kuiper prototype satellites, and is deorbiting the two craft. “That mission achieved a 100 per cent success rate and helped us practice safe satellite operations,” says the company. “Now, we’re gradually bring those prototypes down as part of our commitment to space safety and sustainability, and preparing to deploy our first batch of production satellites.”

The pair of test satellites were launched in October 2023. At the time, Amazon said it would start launching operational satellites by mid-2024. That date seems to be slipping, but there’s plenty of other activity which suggests that launches are not far off.

Indeed, Amazon’s planned mega-constellation Project Kuiper is gearing up its satellite production facilities. A new 172,0000 sq. ft. factory in Kirkland, Washington State, is now in full production while being supported by a parts and components logistics facility at nearby Everett. Kuiper has also taken on a number of technical graduates and apprentices.

Project Kuiper is expected to start delivering five satellites per day which will be shipped down to a processing facility in Florida from June 2024 and then ready for launch.

“With our manufacturing facility in Kirkland coming online, we’re able to ramp satellite production ahead of our first launch and move faster in our mission to connect the world,” said Steve Metayer, Project Kuiper’s VP/production operations, said in the Amazon announcement. “Just like our advanced satellite design, we conceived our production line and manufacturing processes fully in-house. We also have a top-tier team delivering consistent, high-quality work every step of the way.”

“Now, the team is shifting focus to the first full-scale launch of Kuiper production satellites, kicking off a regular cadence of launches to deploy the entire 3,232-satellite constellation,” he added.

That team is now about 2,000 strong, and Kuiper is happy to talk to new talent and is recruiting 50 full time extra staff in Florida at a minimum salary of $80,000.

Kuiper is very much on an obligatory tight timetable. It must, according to FCC and ITU rules, launch at least half of the overall 3,232 satellites by July 2026.

Project Kuiper is also dependent on available launches. It has its own Blue Origin rocket family, as well as orders with Ariane 6 and the United Launch Alliance as well as SpaceX to handle the launch tasks.

Meanwhile, Kuiper has applied to the FCC for a blanket licence to cover “Earth Stations in Motion” (another way of talking about orbital satellites and their ground receivers). The licence would cover access to and from the Kuiper fleet by cars, ships and aircraft. In its application to the FCC, Project Kuiper requested that its upcoming satellite Internet system operates for vehicles that are “in motion,” including land, sea and air. It wants a “general license” to operate satellite dishes on moving vehicles throughout the US and in international waters.

Project Kuiper says the proposed licence would apply to three models of satellite dishes: the ultra-compact model, which can offer download speeds of up to 100Mbps; the standard model, which can reach speeds of up to 400Mbps; and “a larger, high-performance model”, which can deliver 1Gbps downloads.

Amazon plans to offer a beta version of its Project Kuiper service by the end of 2024, potentially providing consumers, businesses and governments with an alternative to Starlink.

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