Amazon Joins Space Forces With Blue Origin Rival SpaceX On Kuiper Satellite Launch

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Amazon has inked a deal with Blue Origin rival SpaceX for three Falcon 9 launches to support deployment of Project Kuiper, Amazon’s low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite broadband network. The company previously secured 77 heavy-lift rockets from Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance, which should be enough launches for most of Amazon’s satellite constellation.

Project Kuiper, an internal code name for the program that stuck, is Amazon’s attempt at providing fast, affordable broadband to communities throughout the world that are currently unserved or underserved. In order to attain the goal, the company must deploy thousands of satellites linked to a global network of antennas, fiber, and internet connection points on the ground. The deal with SpaceX will serve only a small portion of the needed launches in order to achieve the overall goal.

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Amazon began research and development of Project Kuiper, which is not part of Jeff Bezos' founded Blue Origin, in 2018. Bezos, of course, also founded Amazon and served as CEO until July 2021. Amazon garnered a license to deploy and operate the satellites from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the summer of 2020. The license requires Amazon to deploy at least half of its satellite constellation by July 2026.

As of right now, Amazon has only launched two prototype satellites. According to the company, the test satellites have helped validate the satellite design and network architecture. Production of the satellites are scheduled to begin ahead of a full-scale deployment in the first half of 2024. The company expects to have enough satellites deployed to begin pilots of the program in the second half of 2024, with SpaceX launches targeted for mid-2025.

Project Kuiper’s initial satellite constellation will comprise 3.236 satellites that will send data back to Earth to Amazon customer terminals that are expected to deliver speeds of up to 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to its ultra-compact terminal, and up to 400Mbps to its standard model. There will also be a model for enterprise use, which is said to support up to 1Gbps.