Amazon is set to launch its first satellites into space as part of a mission to bring fast internet connection to all corners of the globe.
The multinational technology giant will launch two test satellites from a space station in Florida on Friday afternoon.
It is part of mission, called Project Kuiper, to bring fast and affordable broadband services to communities around the world who are “unserved or underserved” by traditional internet providers.
Jeff Bezos’s Amazon said it wants to help “bridge the digital divide” through the long-term initiative.
It rivals that of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Starlink, which uses satellites to beam a broadband signal down to Earth.
Starlink already has about 5,000 satellites in space around the globe and the technology is being used as part of a UK Government trial to connect rural homes and isolated areas to better internet service.
Amazon said its prototype satellites, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, are the first iterations of more than 3,200 satellites it plans to make and deploy over the next six years.
Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology, said: “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.
“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 series of tests will help to add to years of data collected from lab and field testing, the group said.
At the end of the mission, which will involve extensive tests of the satellites in space and the network on the ground, it plans to “actively de-orbit” both satellites before they ultimately burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
This is part of the group’s commitment to space safety, Amazon said.
Project Kuiper, which began in 2018, is aiming for the broadband service to work for its earliest customers by the end of 2024.
By July 2026, it should have half of its entire satellite network running.
The test launches will take place from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 2pm Eastern Time, and the satellites will travel to space on an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance.
Press Association – Anna Wise