Amazon Reveals the Secret "Space Lasers" That Will Power Satellite Internet

Last month, Amazon confirmed that its Project Kuipter prototype satellites are operating properly in Earth’s orbit. The company is now coming forward to reveal a “confidential” technology called OISL or “optical inter-satellite link,” which allows the satellites to form an orbital mesh network at speeds of 100 Gbps.

The Project Kuiper satellite internet service is Amazon’s answer to Starlink. Production-grade Kuiper satellites will be launched into orbit early next year, and Amazon hopes to deploy a network of 3,200 satellites by 2029.

These satellites need to communicate with each other. But each satellite will orbit Earth at 15,534 MPH, so a wired connection is impossible. Radio-based communications may seem like the best solution, but radio suffers from a limited transfer rate and consumes a lot of power. That’s why Amazon is relying on OISL, which is laser-based.

Kuiper satellites will point lasers at each other through the vacuum of space. The high-frequency IR lasers can transfer data at up to 100 Gbps and may operate at distances of 1,616 miles. Amazon says that its prototype satellites maintained a 100-gigabit OISL connection for over an hour, proving that the technology is ready for production.

To be clear, Amazon did not invent or pioneer the OISL system. SpaceX began adding laser crosslinks to its Starlink constellation in 2021, and the concept of laser-based inter-satellite communication dates back to the Cold War. Amazon’s OISL system was “confidential” in a formal sense, but most experts assumed that Project Kuiper would use the technology.

There is no indication that Project Kuiper will be “better” or “worse” than Starlink. Field tests show that Kuiper can provide internet speeds of 400 Mbps, while Starlink’s business-grade service promises a 500 Mbps connection. Both services are impressive and offer the same basic functionality.

In any case, satellite internet is primarily geared toward rural customers, sea-faring mariners, and governments. It may also be a useful form of disaster relief. Those who have access to reliable cable, fiber, or cellular internet have no reason to switch to satellite. Not in this decade, at least.

Now that Amazon has finished its preliminary testing, it can start building the Project Kuiper constellation. The first production-grade Kuiper satellites will be launched in early 2024. If everything goes as planned, Kuiper will begin taking customers later in the year.

Source: Amazon


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