Amazon has taken a significant step forward in its plan to challenge Elon Musk's Starlink internet service by launching its first two satellites for Project Kuiper. The project aims to create a constellation of over 3,200 satellites to provide global broadband internet services. Amazon has stated that it hopes to serve tens of millions of customers and help close the digital divide by delivering affordable, high-speed internet to unserved and underserved communities worldwide.
The prototype satellites, named KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, were launched from the Atlas V rocket by United Launch Alliance (ULA). They were released into orbit at an altitude of 311 miles above Earth. The launch had been delayed from late 2022 due to changes made to the rocket-delivery system.
The successful launch of the prototypes will allow Amazon to test all elements of the Kuiper System before rolling out the full network. Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, expressed gratitude to the team and partners at ULA for their efforts.
Project Kuiper will directly compete with Starlink, which is currently the most established low-orbit satellite-internet service. Starlink has launched over 4,000 satellites since May 2019 and has announced that more than 2 million customers are using its internet services.
Satellite internet networks, such as those provided by Amazon and Starlink, offer faster connectivity to rural communities and can serve as a backup during disruptions to traditional communications networks caused by natural or manmade disasters.
In addition to Amazon and SpaceX, other players in the satellite internet race include Canadian satellite operator Telesat and OneWeb, which is owned by French satellite company Eutelsat and the British government.