Amazon strikes deals with three launch providers for Project Kuiper

(05 Apr 2022) Amazon announced it has secured up to 83 launches from three commercial space companies—Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA)—to provide heavy-lift capacity for Project Kuiper. These agreements mean the company has enough capacity to carry into space the majority of the 3,236 satellites that make up our satellite constellation.

As part of Amazon's family of products and services, Project Kuiper is working to deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband service at an affordable price. The Kuiper System includes three key elements: advanced LEO satellites; small, affordable customer terminals; and a secure, resilient ground-based communications network.

The three agreements include 38 launches on ULA's Vulcan Centaur rocket, 18 launches on Arianespace's Ariane 6, and 12 launches on Blue Origin's New Glenn, with options for 15 additional launches. Together, they represent the largest commercial procurement of space launch services in history.

The new agreements are in addition to the existing deal for nine launches on Atlas V vehicles from ULA to help deploy the Project Kuiper constellation, as well as two RS1 launches from ABL Space Systems to deploy the prototype KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2 satellites.

Amazon also completed an agreement with Switzerland-headquartered Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space) to build the low-cost, versatile satellite dispensers that will deploy the Project Kuiper constellation. Beyond Gravity's dispensers can easily scale up and down in capacity to fit the different rockets.

The Project Kuiper contract is the single-largest order in Beyond Gravity's history. The company is doubling its production capacity as a result, opening a second production facility in Linköping, Sweden, where it will create dozens of jobs.

"Securing launch capacity from multiple providers has been a key part of our strategy from day one," Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon, said in a news release. "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."

Amazon's direct satellite competitor, SpaceX, is notably absent from the deal as Amazon continues to compete with SpaceX's Starlink broadband system.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's rules require Amazon to have deployed around 1,600, or half, of its satellites by July 2026.

Reference: Amazon PR, UPI

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