Amazon to connect Kuiper internet satellites with laser links

Amazon to connect Kuiper internet satellites with laser links

A visualization of laser links connecting Kuiper satellites in orbit around the Earth.

Amazon

Amazon will include a key speed-boosting technology in its coming Project Kuiper internet satellites, the company announced Thursday.

Amazon says it tested the laser link tech successfully during its recent Protoflight mission. Traditionally, satellites are limited to sending data between an individual spacecraft and the ground. Laser links connect satellites to each other.

The Kuiper satellites’ “optical inter-satellite links,” also known as OISLs, serve as a way to transmit data through space. Laser links are a feature that Elon Musk’s SpaceX began introducing in later generations of its Starlink satellites. The links help improve both the latency and speed of these networks.

“With optical inter-satellite links across our satellite constellation, Project Kuiper will effectively operate as a mesh network in space,” Rajeev Badyal, Amazon’s Project Kuiper vice president of technology, said in a statement.

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Amazon’s pair of Kuiper prototype satellites “completed multiple successful” laser link demonstrations, the company said. During the tests, the Kuiper prototype satellites maintained links that transferred data at 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) over a distance of nearly 621 miles between the spacecraft.

“Because light travels faster in space than it does through glass, Kuiper’s orbital laser mesh network will be able to move data approximately 30% faster than if it traveled the equivalent distance via terrestrial fiber optic cables,” Amazon said.

The company plans to include laser links from the outset in production of its commercial Kuiper satellites, with the network planned to consist of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit. To date, Amazon has ordered 97 rocket launches to begin deploying its satellites in the first half of next year. In full, Amazon expects to invest upward of $10 billion to build Kuiper.

How Amazon's Project Kuiper is taking on SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet

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