Amazon has signed contracts for what it says is the largest commercial procurement of rockets in history to support the launch of its $ 10 billion ‘Project Kuiper’ satellite broadband network.
The retail and technology giant has reached agreements with European firm Arianespace, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin (which is backed by Amazon founder and executive chairman Jeff Bezos) to launch 83 rockets over a five-year period.
The launches will provide the ‘heavy lift’ for a low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation comprising 3,236 satellites that will compete with the likes of Elon Musk’s Starlink and the UK government backed OneWeb.
Project Kuiper plans to deliver affordable, high performance and low latency broadband to consumers, businesses, mobile operators, disaster relief efforts and other organizations in parts of the planet without a reliable connection.
By partnering with multiple rocket companies, Amazon hopes to reduce the risks and cost associated with the project.
“Securing launch capacity from multiple providers has been a key part of our strategy since day one,” said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon. “This approach reduces risk associated with launch vehicle stand-downs and supports competitive long-term pricing for Amazon, producing cost savings that we can pass on to our customers.
“These large, heavy-lift rockets also mean we can deploy more of our constellation with fewer launches, helping simplify our launch and deployment schedule. We’re excited to move one step closer to connecting residential, business, and government customers around the world. ”
Amazon has more than 1,000 staff working on Project Kuiper, with the company ready to use its global footprint, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure, and its experience building low-cost devices to get the initiative off the ground.
It is still finalizing its satellite design, customer terminals, and its plans to support the network with reliable ground communications but there are already plans for two prototype missions later this year.
“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. These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper, and we’re proud to be working with such an impressive lineup of partners to deliver on our mission. ”