ABL Space Systems to Brave the Amazon

ABL Space Systems to launch Project Kuiper’s first satellites in 2022


ABL’s RS1 rocket is planned to launch the first two Project Kuiper satellites for Amazon. Credit: Amazon

Amazon just cut a deal with startup ABL Space Systems, with plans to launch the first two prototype Project Kuiper satellites in 2022. “ABL Space Systems aims to place the KuiperSat-1 and Kuiper-Sat-2 prototypes in low Earth orbit (LEO) by the fourth quarter of 2022 with its small launch vehicle RS1” according to author Jason Rainbow.

Amazon’s ultimate goal for Project Kuiper is to join the pseudo-exodus of companies providing space-based internet solutions to customers on the ground. In 2020, Amazon said its customer-grade antenna prototype was “delivering speeds up to 400 Mbps (Megabits per second), and performance will continue to improve in future iterations.” This speed is on-par to slightly better than other solutions such as SpaceX’s Starlink, for those playing at home.

With respect to cybersecurity, Amazon’s Project Kuiper introduces an industry-wide risk as well as a vendor-specific risk. To the industry, one more player in the game, especially one the size of Amazon, adds critical systems that can be hacked, people that can be phished, and information that can be stolen. Furthermore, because space-based internet is the hot trend right now, each new company is an added risk to each existing company as the internet constellations are connected by, you guessed it, the internet. The industry is effectively digging unintentional tunnels to their competitors networks. This cyber-risk must be addressed through policy and practices that prevent bad actors from not only direct attack, but collateral damage.

The vendor-specific risk lies in the small company ABL Space Systems. While direct conclusions on ABL-specific cybersecurity practices cannot be drawn, it may be appropriate to assume that in general smaller, startup-sized companies are more vulnerable to cyberattack due to things like training and budget. Especially when working with a giant like Amazon, startups open the door to larger companies for insider threats and other cybercriminals to access critical information systems. Therefore, startups to industry leaders should be taking part in meetings such as Space ISAC to ensure safety all around.