Amazon moving Project Kuiper team to new R&D headquarters

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WASHINGTON —  Amazon on Dec. 18 said its Project Kuiper team will move in 2020 to a permanent research and development headquarters with state-of-the-art facilities for designing and testing its planned megaconstellation of broadband satellites. 

In a company blog post, Amazon said it is completing renovation of two leased buildings in Redmond, Washington, that will provide Project Kuiper with 219,000 square feet (20,300 square meters) for R&D labs, prototype manufacturing facilities, and office and design space. 

“As Amazon’s Project Kuiper team continues to make great strides, the team has once again outgrown its current facility,” Amazon said. “With that in mind, we are leasing and renovating a long term home for the Kuiper team…which will become Kuiper’s primary headquarters for research & development, as well as its primary prototype manufacturing and qualification facility.”

Project Kuiper is a constellation of 3,236 satellites Amazon plans to deploy in low Earth orbit for low-latency, high-speed broadband. Amazon joins SpaceX, OneWeb and Telesat in planning large constellations of internet-beaming satellites. 

Amazon hasn’t said when it plans to launch its first Kuiper satellites, but will need to launch at least one of its satellites by early 2026 in order to comply with the seven-year countdown that started in March when it filed with the International Telecommunication Union for Ka-band spectrum essential for the constellation.

Amazon told the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in July that it plans to launch Project Kuiper satellites in five waves, with satellites designed to operate for seven years.

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, also owns launch company Blue Origin, whose New Glenn orbital rocket is slated for a first launch in 2021. Amazon’s Web Services business also has a ground station business that communicates with satellites as they circle the planet.  

Spectrum regulators at the ITU set new rules for low Earth orbit megaconstellations last month, requiring operators, after that seven-year window, to launch 10% of their constellation in two years, 50% in five years and 100% in seven years in order to keep their full spectrum rights. 

Amazon, in its Dec. 18 blog post, said  Kuiper has made “significant progress towards our goal to serve tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet.” The company continues to expand its workforce backing the constellation, and has 167 job openings for Kuiper posted on its website.