Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite network, aims to provide fast, affordable broadband to communities that are unserved or underserved by traditional communication technologies. To achieve this mission, Project Kuiper engineers have developed a new antenna architecture that is smaller, lighter, and more affordable than traditional designs. Amazon recently unveiled the results of this work, showcasing three engineering models that will anchor its customer terminal portfolio.
The first design is an affordable high-performance model for residential and small business customers. The standard customer terminal measures less than 11 inches square and 1 inch thick, weighs less than five pounds without its mounting bracket, and delivers speeds of up to 400 megabits per second (Mbps). Amazon expects to produce these terminals for less than $400 each.
The second design is an ultra-compact model that weighs just one pound and measures 7 inches square. It offers speeds of up to 100 Mbps, making it the smallest and most affordable customer terminal available. This design will connect residential customers who need an even lower-cost model, as well as government and enterprise customers pursuing applications like ground mobility and internet of things (IoT).
The third design is a high-bandwidth model designed for enterprise, government, and telecommunications applications that require even more bandwidth. It measures 19 inches by 30 inches and delivers speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
All of these customer terminals are powered by an Amazon-designed baseband chip called Prometheus. Prometheus combines the processing power of a 5G modem chip, the capability of a cellular base station, and the ability of a microwave backhaul antenna to support powerful point-to-point connections—all packed into a single custom chip. Prometheus is also used in Project Kuiper’s satellites and ground gateway antennas, allowing the system to process up to 1 terabit per second (Tbps) of traffic on board each satellite.
Amazon is already scaling its infrastructure in anticipation of building tens of millions of customer terminals. The team is also preparing to deploy its first two prototype satellites on the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. The upcoming mission will help Project Kuiper engineers gain real-world data on how the systems perform in space and let them test the entire end-to-end communications network. In parallel, Project Kuiper is scaling operations in preparation for offering commercial service. The team recently began development of a dedicated satellite production facility in Kirkland, Washington, and expects to begin mass-producing satellites by the end of 2023. Project Kuiper expects to launch the first production satellites in the first half of 2024 and plans to give its earliest customers access to the service beginning later that year.
“Our goal with Project Kuiper is not just to connect unserved and underserved communities, but also to delight them with the quality, reliability, and value of their service,” said Rajeev Badyal, Amazon’s vice president of technology for Project Kuiper. “From day one, every technology and business decision we’ve made has centered on what will deliver the best experience for different customers around the world, and our range of customer terminals reflects those choices.”