Amazon’s (AMZN.O) first pair of prototype satellites for the planned Kuiper internet network was launched into space from Florida on Friday, marking the company’s first step before deploying thousands more into orbit to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket with the Amazon logo lifted up from Cape Canaveral at about 2 p.m. Eastern time (1800 GMT), carrying the two Kuiper test satellites, a long-awaited mission that Amazon had originally planned to launch using separate rockets.
The mission intends to test Amazon’s first space technologies as the e-commerce and web services behemoth plans to launch 3,236 more satellites in the next years and provide broadband internet to every country, a goal Elon Musk’s SpaceX is aiming for with its almost 5,000 Starlink satellites already in orbit.
Few details about the two satellites, which were constructed at Amazon’s satellite business in Redmond, Washington, were made public in the days preceding the launch.
Shortly after the rocket’s liftoff, the United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed joint venture, cut off the launch live stream without seeing the satellites being deployed. Later, Amazon claimed that its mission operations center had made touch with the two satellites and that they had been launched.
As of 2019, when SpaceX started launching its first operational Starlink spaceship, Amazon had committed $10 billion to the Kuiper project.
The American Federal Communications Commission has mandated that half of Amazon’s proposed satellite array be operational by 2026.
In the coming decade, the market for broadband internet service provided by low-Earth orbiting satellites is anticipated to be worth up to tens of billions of dollars.
Amazon’s other competitors include Canada’s Telesat, which has not yet launched satellites, and French satellite company Eutelsat’s OneWeb, which primarily provides its internet service to governments and corporations. With the addition of Starlink, SpaceX has surpassed Amazon to become the largest satellite operator in the world.
With Kuiper, Amazon intends to appeal to both individual consumers and business clients. It is taking a page from SpaceX’s playbook of gadgets to create consumer terminals at a corporate cost of $400 each, but pricing has not yet been disclosed. Each of SpaceX’s consumer Starlink terminals costs $599.
Amazon last year announced a bulk launch agreement for 83 launches, the largest commercial rocket procurement ever, from a variety of rocket companies, including Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, ULA, and Europe’s Arianespace, to deploy the remainder of the Kuiper network.
Regarding that launch agreement, shareholders are suing Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, claiming that the business did not perform adequate due diligence and disregarded possibly less expensive rockets from rival SpaceX. The quick deployment of Starlink has been made possible by SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket.