Amazon details KuiperSat broadband satellites

November 02, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Amazon details KuiperSat broadband satellites
Amazon’s Project Kuiper will launch two prototype satellites by the end of 2022 using a new rocket from ABL Space Systems

Amazon has developed new technology for its Project Kuiper to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellites.

The company has filed an experimental license application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch, deploy, and operate two prototype satellites for the project.

KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 are an important step in the development process to test the communications and networking technology that will be used in the final satellite design. The company plans a constellation of 3,236 satellites at altitudes of 590 km, 610 km, and 630km.

This will compete with the StarLink broadband network from SpaceX which already has 1791 satellites in orbit and UK-backed OneWeb with 358.

KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will include much of the technology and sub-systems for the production version of design, including phased array and parabolic antennas, power and propulsion systems, and custom-designed modems.

This will use multi-beam phased array transceivers, for parabolic transceivers, and round-trip payload capability using a combination of phased array and parabolic transceivers. There will be three phased array antennas for customer terminal links—two for transmit and one for receive communications. The phased array antennas will each produce independent steerable beams that will be used to track the customer terminal throughout a satellite pass, transmitting multiple 100 MHz wide carriers within the 17.8-18.6 GHz band and receiving transmissions from customer terminals in the 28.6-29.1 GHz band.

Amazon plans to collect performance, diagnostic, and telemetry data from satellite bus and payload components, including avionics endpoints, bus voltages, batteries, and phased array panels.

One of the two prototype KuiperSats will also include a sunshade to help understand whether it is an effective way to reduce reflectivity and mitigate its impact on ground-based optical telescopes. We will collect data to compare reflectivity between the two spacecraft, and share any learnings with the astronomy community following the mission.

The Kuiper team will also conduct experimental tests using prototypes of a low-cost customer terminal, and Cobham is delivering a 2.4m antenna for the ground station in Texas.

There are 750 people currently working on Project Kuiper in Seattle, Washington, and the company is planning to add hundreds more to the team in the coming year.

"We’ve invented lots of new technology to meet our cost and performance targets for Project Kuiper. All of the systems are testing well in simulated and lab settings, and we’ll soon be ready to see how they perform in space," said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper. "There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment. We can’t wait to get started."

Next: KuiperSat tech and launch

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