According to Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, the initial two prototype satellites of Project Kuiper are currently being transported to Cape Canaveral. He discussed this development during a keynote address at the Satellite 2023 show.
Limp expressed his anticipation for the upcoming satellite launch in May, stating that it will provide valuable insights and knowledge for the Kuiper team. He also highlighted the larger size of Project Kuiper’s satellites compared to others in the industry, which is attributed to their symmetric K-band architecture.
Furthermore, Limp revealed Amazon’s ambitious plan of manufacturing three to five satellites daily, aiming to swiftly expand and complete the constellation. He mentioned that satellite production will ramp up significantly in 2024, and by mid-2026, more than half of the constellation will be deployed.
Limp also emphasized that the Project Kuiper team is facing pressure from potential customers to expedite their progress. He asserted that Amazon possesses unique advantages that position it as a formidable competitor to existing Low Earth Orbit (LEO) players like SpaceX and OneWeb.
One of these advantages lies in Amazon’s extensive fiber infrastructure and its role in handling a significant amount of internet traffic. Limp explained that many of the workloads that Project Kuiper will handle are already situated within the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud. As more workloads migrate to the cloud, they will be located in a data center, further leveraging Amazon’s capabilities.
Additionally, Limp highlighted the value of Amazon’s customer service organization, emphasizing its potential contribution to the emerging internet business associated with Project Kuiper.
Furthermore, Limp noted that Amazon’s renowned ability to control costs is another asset for Project Kuiper. He explained that they aim to apply the cost-control strategies employed in consumer electronics to the aerospace sector, rather than the other way around. Lowering the cost of customer-premise equipment is crucial for the viability of the business model, and Amazon has innovated to ensure that the cost of such equipment is significantly reduced.
Limp also unveiled a prototype of a compact Kuiper terminal, which he compared to the size of an LP record. This smaller model measures approximately 7 square inches and is expected to provide a throughput of up to 100 Mbps.
In addition, he presented a physical prototype of an enterprise-grade terminal specifically designed for enterprise, government, and telecommunications applications. This larger device measures 19 inches by 30 inches and is projected to offer speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second.
Limp highlighted the significance of Amazon’s proprietary Prometheus baseband chip within the Kuiper architecture, emphasizing its role as a key element in their business model. The Prometheus chip is an application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that combines the functionalities of a 5G base station, a 5G smartphone modem, and a microwave backhaul antenna. Limp stated that leveraging this chip has allowed Amazon to develop equipment that costs only a fraction of what it would have if they had purchased it off the shelf.
Furthermore, Limp predicted that Amazon’s satellite-based internet service will cater to the needs of enterprises, government entities, and residential customers who currently lack access to reliable internet connectivity.