Amazon.com Inc., which launched its first internet satellites in October, says it will use space lasers to ensure reliable broadband coverage even in the middle of the ocean.
The technology will enable a satellite to deliver data to a cruise ship, say, even if the spacecraft isn’t in range of an Amazon ground station connected to the internet. Instead, the laser will pass the request on to another satellite that has a clear view of a ground station.
The two prototype satellites successfully tested the technology, which is officially called optical inter-satellite links, Amazon said on Thursday.
“If you’re going to serve maritime customers, air customers, you have got to be able to get data up to your satellites,” said Rajeev Badyal, who leads Amazon’s Project Kuiper internet-from-space initiative. “And in the middle of the ocean, it’s difficult if not impossible” to install ground stations.
SpaceX’s Starlink unit, which operates the biggest constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit, has included such lasers on its newer models.
Amazon hopes to eventually operate a constellation of 3,236 satellites. The company plans to start testing the network with customers sometime in the second half of 2024.
In a blog post published Thursday, Amazon said its prototypes transmitted data at 100 gigabits per second over a distance of almost 1,000 kilometers. Some members of the laser team previously worked for Facebook, which abandoned earlier plans for a satellite network. Bloomberg