Amazon designs thrusters to protect its satellites from space debris

Amazon says they’ve designed custom satellite thrusters that will enable more effective maneuvering to avoid space debris and increase the sustainability of the company’s satellite network.

Project Kuiper recently showcased the ability to control satellite movement in space using its electric propulsion system, developed in-house. This system includes a custom Hall-effect thruster and a propellant tank filled with krypton for the mission.

The successful test firings provided essential on-orbit data, confirming that the satellite design can perform critical functions, including lifting satellites to their designated orbits after launch, maintaining their positions, maneuvering to avoid space debris and other spacecraft, and actively deorbiting them at the end of their missions.

As stated, the satellite propulsion system uses less propellant for each satellite maneuver, allowing the company to extend the lifespan of each satellite in the constellation and contribute to sustainability.

“Space safety and sustainability have been fundamental to Project Kuiper since day one, and our propulsion system is one of the first systems we built and tested in the lab,” said Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology.

“Our custom thrusters are a prime example of Kuiper innovation, and using them to maneuver safely in space was a critical piece of our Protoflight mission. The positive results give us even more confidence in our plans to deploy and operate our satellite constellation,” he added.

Amazon satellite
Project Kuiper’s prototype satellites entered low Earth orbit on October 6, 2023 | Image by Amazon

Established in 2019, Project Kuiper is an Amazon subsidiary focused on deploying a vast network of satellites for fast broadband internet. The first pair of prototype satellites for Amazon’s planned Kuiper internet network were launched into space at the beginning of October this year.

Amazon’s attempts to secure its place as a satellite internet provider comes as competition to SpaceX's Starlink, owned by Elon Musk.

The e-commerce and web services giant looks to deploy 3,236 more satellites in the next few years and offer broadband internet globally. Elon Musk's SpaceX is targeting a similar feat with its nearly 5,000 Starlink satellites in orbit.

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