Elon Musk is set to get fierce competition in the affordable satellite-based internet market as Amazon on Tuesday announced the biggest rocket deal in the commercial space industry’s history, signing a pact with three rocket companies for up to 83 launches under its Project Kuiper internet satellites.
The tech giant signed contracts for launches with United Launch Alliance (ULA), Arianespace, and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.
The contracts total up to 83 launches over a five-year period, providing capacity for Amazon to deploy the majority of its 3,236-satellite constellation.
“Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world,” said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President for Amazon Devices & Services.
“We still have lots of work ahead, but the team has continued to hit milestone after milestone across every aspect of our satellite system,” he said in a statement.
Like Musk’s Starlink, Amazon’s Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband to a wide range of customers, including individual households, schools, hospitals, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief operations, mobile operators, and other organizations working in places without reliable internet connectivity.
Amazon is designing and developing the entire system in-house, combining a constellation of advanced LEO satellites with small, affordable customer terminals and a secure, resilient ground-based communications network.
There are now more than 1,000 people at Amazon working on Project Kuiper.
The company said that Project Kuiper will leverage Amazon’s global logistics and operations footprint, as well as Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) networking and infrastructure, to serve a diverse, global customer base.
“Securing launch capacity from multiple providers has been a key part of our strategy from day one,” said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon.
“These large, heavy-lift rockets also mean we can deploy more of our constellation with fewer launches, helping simplify our launch and deployment schedule,” Badyal added.
In addition, Amazon is working with Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space), a Switzerland-headquartered space technology provider, to build low-cost, scalable satellite dispensers that will help deploy the Project Kuiper constellation.
Amazon has signed an agreement with Blue Origin to secure 12 launches using New Glenn rocket, with options for up to 15 additional launches.
Jarrett Jones, Senior Vice President, New Glenn, Blue Origin, said that the New Glenn’s seven-meter fairing offers unprecedented mass and volume capabilities, providing Project Kuiper maximum launch flexibility.
Project Kuiper plans to launch two prototype missions later this year on ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket.
Amazon will invest over $10 billion in its satellite internet network.
Meanwhile, Starlink has already launched more than 2,000 satellites since 2019, and many more will go up in the near future.
SpaceX has permission to launch 12,000 Starlink satellites and has applied for approval for up to 30,000 more.
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