Amazon transmitts data in space using laser: What opportunities will it create?

December 16, 2023  11:41

Amazon has announced the successful testing of a space-based laser communication link between two prototypes of the Project Kuiper internet satellites. The laser communication between orbiting communication satellites will allow Earth subscribers to exchange data with minimal delays, providing widespread fast internet access for airline passengers, cruise ship travelers, and residents in remote areas.

The Amazon Project Kuiper satellite constellation is being developed as a competitor to SpaceX's Starlink service. However, considering Amazon's project is sponsored by the Pentagon, which granted the company a $67 million grant in 2022 for the demonstration of optical satellite relay, the Project Kuiper constellation is viewed by the U.S. military as a backup for its own needs. This is particularly important as Amazon will also provide computing and cloud resources through the satellite network, which the military has subscribed to.

"In early November, we successfully established the first optical communication links between two of our satellite prototypes, allowing us to transmit and receive data at speeds of up to 100 Gbps throughout the entire test period lasting an hour or more," Amazon stated in its blog.

During test mode, various data, including simulated online purchases, high-resolution video streaming, and website visits, were transmitted and received through the laser channel over a distance of 1000 km.

Amazon is not alone in its pursuit of organizing laser communication in space. Starlink satellites also exchange information using lasers. Optical channels in a vacuum operate at a higher speed than fiber-optic lines, adding to their bandwidth.

NASA is also transitioning to laser communication in space. Equipment has been installed aboard the ISS to establish a laser communication channel with Earth at a speed of 1.2 Gbps. Earlier, long-distance laser space communication was tested when the "Psyche" station transmitted information from a distance of 16 million km.

The Amazon Project Kuiper constellation will begin deployment in the first half of 2024. Communication channel testing will commence later in 2024 but only with selected customers. The Kuiper constellation will consist of a total of 3236 satellites.

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