190108 Amazon
Amazon. Image Credit: Reuters

Amazon.com Inc.'s Kuiper Systems LLC says it will launch two prototype satellites late next year, the first deployment for its planned $10 billion Project Kuiper constellation in low-earth orbit.

KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 will be sent aloft in the fourth quarter of 2022 on an RS1 rocket built by ABL Space Systems Co., Kuiper Systems said Monday in a blog post. ABL, based in El Segundo, California, plans its first RS1 test flight before year end, company founder and President Dan Piemont said in an email.

Amazon aims to sell consumers space-based broadband internet and already has plenty of competition from similar systems being developed by Elon Musk's SpaceX, Inmarsat Group Holdings Ltd. and OneWeb Ltd.

Owned by the UK government and India's Bharti Global, OneWeb says it will offer global coverage by the end of 2022. Inmarsat's proposed low-earth-orbit constellation, called Orchestra, is designed to bolster 5G network capacity, especially for maritime customers. SpaceX's Starlink system is already operating in numerous countries, including in Europe and South America.

In July, the Federal Communications Commission approved Kuiper's constellation plans, which will number more than 3,200 satellites. Kuiper Systems is a wholly owned subsidiary of Amazon.

Kuiper and SpaceX have been sparring in recent months via filings before the FCC, with Amazon contending that Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. hasn't met regulatory requirements for its satellite effort.

The two experimental Kuiper satellites will orbit at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers), the company said in a filing Monday with the FCC, which must approve Kuiper's request for an experimental license to operate the two prototypes.

"There is no substitute for on-orbit testing, and we expect to learn a lot given the complexity and risk of operating in such a challenging environment," Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper's vice president of technology, said in a statement. "We can't wait to get started."