In a bid to rival SpaceX’s Starlink network for broadband internet, Amazon has secured rocket launches with three companies, while spending billions of dollars creating a satellite network to support internet beaming.
Amazon has said that its Project Kuiper has secured 83 rocket launches over a period of five years, and includes an agreement with Blue Origin, a company owned by founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos.
Project Kuiper plans to launch its first two satellites by the end of the year. So far, SpaceX has an advantage over other competitors, having launched thousands of satellites in low earth orbit. Starlink, the project by SpaceX, aims to deliver broadband internet using this constellation of satellites.
Record procurement of satellite launch vehicles by Amazon
A spokesperson for Amazon said that the e-commerce giant has invested billions of dollars in the new agreements, creating the largest procurement of satellite launch vehicles in history.
The new agreements include eighteen launches with Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rockets, twelve launches with New Glenn by Blue Origin, and thirty-eight launches with the Vulcan Centaur rocket by Untied Launch Alliance. ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
These agreements will together provide the launch capacity for majority of the satellite constellation as proposed by Project Kuiper.
Arianespace’s CEO, Stephane Israel, mentioned that the Ariane 6, which is under development, could launch up to forty Kuiper satellites on each mission. These rockets are said to be heavy-lift rockets.
Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and ULA’s Vulcan, which are both under development, will carry sixty-one and forty-five satellites respectively, according to the company CEO’s at an announcement in Colorado.
Head of Amazon’s devices unit, Dave Limp, said that the company wished for diversity in its launch partnerships, and includes deals with ULA and ABL Space – a rocket start-up.
While saying that the launches would take place between 2024 and 2027, ArianeGroup CEO Andre-Hubert-Roussel mentioned that it was the largest contract ever signed by Arianespace since its inception. He declined to provide financial details of the agreement.
Project Kuiper aims to use over 3,000 satellites in low earth orbit to beam high-speed, low-latency internet to customers, including households, businesses and government agencies.
Rajeev Badyal, VP-Technology for Project Kuiper, said that utilizing the services of multiple providers for the satellite launches reduces the risk of launch vehicle stand downs, and the saved costs can be further passed on to customers.