Amazon’s satellite-based internet service, Project Kuiper, has officially lifted off with a successful launch on Friday following multiple delays.
The test satellites, which were aboard United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, lifted off at 2:06 p.m. ET. Within five minutes a ULA official confirmed the successful completion of the first phase of the flight.
Project Kuiper (pronounced kie-per) is one of the biggest initiatives at Amazon, a literal moonshot that could move the online retailer into the new business of providing internet services to homes and businesses like hospitals or factories. Amazon CEO Andy Jassey has said that it would represent a core part of the company’s future, and the company sees the service launching by the end of 2024.
It’s one chess piece in a bigger match between tech billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, who owns SpaceX and Starlink, who have reignited the space race with their respective businesses. Bezos also owns the rocket company Blue Origin.
Today’s launch and deployment of the satellites marks just the first test for Amazon to see if its internet service is viable. The satellites will sit in a low-Earth orbit, 311 miles above the surface, and broadcast signals to the ground, similar to SpaceX’s Starlink service.
If the test is successful, Amazon will begin mass producing the satellites and sending them up starting next year.
“We’ve done extensive testing here in our lab and have a high degree of confidence in our satellite design, but there’s no substitute for on-orbit testing,” said Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, in a statement beofre the launch. “This is Amazon’s first time putting satellites into space, and we’re going to learn an incredible amount regardless of how the mission unfolds.”
The company has said it plans to launch 3,200 satellites over the next six years, creating a constellation providing internet service. In comparison, Starlink has roughly 4,500 satellites in orbit now, with Amazon playing catchup from behind.
In July, Amazon announced that it would build a new facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. This $120 million building will create up to 50 new jobs, and be used to assemble the launches prior to lift-off. The 100,000-square-foot facility features a 100-foot tall high bay clean room to allow room for the payload fairing of new heavy-lift rockets like Blue Origin’s New Glenn and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur.
This also marked the 99th flight of the Atlas V rocket and ULA’s 158th launch.
Photo Credit: Amazon