Amazon Project Kuiper books 83 launches of internet satellites

Amazon hired Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance to provide up to 83 launches over five years for its Project Kuiper initiative to boost broadband service from a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites.

Notably missing from the launch group is Amazon’s direct satellite competitor, SpaceX, and its Starlink constellation for internet access.  Amazon’s announced launches will deploy the majority of Project Kuiper’s 3,236 satellites, Amazon said in a statement.

The launch agreements “reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president for Amazon devices and services in a statement.

Project Kuiper is designed to provide high-speed, low-latency internet to  households, schools, hospitals, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief, mobile operators and other groups working in locales without reliable internet.   The LEO satellites would connect to small customer terminals and a ground-based network. Behind it all will be the AWS networking.

Amazon claimed its purchase of launch services from multiple providers will reduce risk in launches and provide cost savings that can be passed onto the consumers.  Heavy-lift rockets are being used to deploy more satellites with fewer launches.

Also, the launch vehicles from Blue Origin and ULA will require materials and parts from suppliers in 49 states while the Arianespace rocket, Ariane 6, will rely on suppliers from 13 European countries. Amazon is also working with Beyond Gravity, a Swiss space tech provider, to construct low-cost satellite dispensers to deploy the Project Kuiper constellation.

Amazon has secured 18 Ariane 6 rockets for its work. Amazon also has an agreement for 12 Blue Origin launches using New Glenn, with options for up to 15 more. With ULA, Amazon has struck a deal for 38 launches on the Vulcan Centaur, in addition to an existing deal for nine Atlas V vehicles from ULA.

Two prototype missions for Project Kuiper are planned for later this year on ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket. More than 1,000 people at Amazon work on Project Kuiper.

Amazon did not disclose the cost of the launches, but various reports put the tally at $10 billion. Analysts also estimate Amazon’s Project Kuiper is about four years behind the SpaceX Starlink constellation.

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