The opening salvo in Amazon’s 3,236-satellite Mission Kuiper enterprise is switching its journey to area. An Amazon spokesperson confirmed in a press release to Spaceflight Now on Monday that the primary two demonstration satellites for the broadband constellation will launch on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket as quickly as Sept. 26, 2023, as an alternative of the inaugural Vulcan rocket.
The change follows information from ULA that its forthcoming Vulcan rocket gained’t launch till late 2023 on the earliest.
Throughout a beam-signing ceremony amid building of a Kuiper processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy House Heart, Steven Metayer, the vice chairman of Kuiper Manufacturing Operations, said that shifting the launch of the primary two satellites was one thing that Amazon was contemplating.
“Our level of file proper now’s to have these satellites flying on the Vulcan and clearly, we’ll work with ULA, who’re nice companions of ours, to see if there’s different choices too, however proper now, the purpose of file is Vulcan,” Metayer mentioned on July 21.
Amazon had booked 9 Atlas 5 launches prior to buying 38 Vulcan flights for the deployment of its Kuiper satellite tv for pc constellation. In a press release to Spaceflight now, a spokesperson mentioned the autumn Atlas launch is a part of that authentic buy.
In response to a filing with the Federal Communications Fee (FCC), the prototype satellites can be launched on an Atlas within the 501 configuration, which means it gained’t be utilizing any stable rocket boosters and can characteristic a 5-metre diameter payload fairing. The doc states that the pair of prototype Kuiper satellites can be despatched right into a round orbit at 500 km at a 30-degree inclination.
Amazon had beforehand mentioned the prototype satellites would assist check the Kuiper community and subsystems. Launches of operational satellites and the beginning of some preliminary trial providers are attributable to start in 2024.
Metayer mentioned throughout an interview with Spaceflight Now that the primary operational missions for the Kuiper constellation will launch on Atlas rockets. He famous on the time that Amazon had manifest dates for its first few Atlas launches, however had but to e-book them with vary authorities.
For a totally loaded Kuiper launch onboard an Atlas V rocket, Metayer mentioned a pair dozen satellites match into an Atlas payload fairing, however didn’t present a particular quantity.
Not the primary rocket shuffle for Kuiper
The shift from Vulcan to Atlas isn’t the primary time Amazon switched launches for these prototype satellites. Again in Nov. 2021, Amazon introduced that KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 would launch aboard an ABL House System RS1 rocket by the fourth quarter of 2022. Lower than a yr later in Oct. 2022, Amazon introduced its plans shifted and people two satellites would as an alternative fly on ULA’s Vulcan rocket.
Amazon said on the time that it could maintain onto two launches with ABL House Methods for the long run. It’s unclear what number of satellites ABL’s RS1 rocket can launch at a time. Spaceflight Now requested Amazon if it nonetheless intends to fly Kuiper satellites aboard the primary Vulcan flight when it does launch. We’re ready to listen to again.