Amazon has just taken the first real step to compete with Starlink: it has launched its first Kuiper satellites

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An Atlas V rocket has taken off with the first two Kuiper satellites, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2

For some time we have been talking about Kuiper, Amazon’s satellite Internet service that will compete in some market segments with SpaceX’s Starlink . However, the project of the company founded by Jeff Bezos, unlike that promoted by Elon Musk, did not have a single satellite in orbit. This has just changed.

An Atlas V rocket lifted off this Friday afternoon from Cape Canaveral’s launch pad 41, the same one from which the majestic Voyager probes were launched in the 1970s. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) launch vehicle carried the first two Project Kuiper satellites, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2.

Kuiper, Amazon’s satellite Internet project, takes off

The two aforementioned devices are destined for low Earth orbit (LEO), about 500 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. We are talking about a first step as a prototype that will serve as a technological demonstration platform and will lay the foundations for the future deployment of a constellation of 3,200 satellites.

At the level of figures, Amazon’s bet is less ambitious than Starlink. The SpaceX subsidiary already has more than 4,500 satellites in orbit, provides service in much of the world,  and hopes to develop an initial constellation of 12,000, with the possibility of launching a second stage that will raise the number to about 42,000. .

The objectives pursued by both firms also have certain differences. Although in both cases we find initiatives that seek to offer high-speed satellite Internet , Kuiper seeks to focus on areas with little or no connectivity resources, while Starlink aims at a more general objective.

In any case, Bezos’ initiative has just taken a very important step. It should be noted that he has had to overcome several obstacles to get to this point. One of them has had to do, precisely, with the launch of these first two satellite prototypes, which should have reached orbit aboard the Vulcan Centaur rocket .

What was the problem? ULA’s new launch system has not been ready on time. Its first takeoff was supposed to occur in 2019, but development has been delayed numerous times . A glitch in March of this year resulted in an indefinite hiatus, forcing ULA to modify its launch schedule.

The lifeline in this unfortunate scenario has been the reliable, and soon to be retired, Atlas V launch system. So far, everything seems to have gone perfectly. The next Kuiper launches, of course, should already be produced with the Vulcan Centaur, and with launch systems from Blue Origin and Arianespace.

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