Amazon signs deals with three rocket companies to launch thousands of satellites

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it has signed deals with three commercial space companies for up to 83 launches of its Project Kuiper broadband satellites. The deals — with Arianespace, United Launch Alliance, and Blue Origin (the rocket company started by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos) — should be enough to launch the bulk of Project Kuiper’s 3,236 satellites into space.

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.

Collectively, they represent the largest commercial procurement of space launch services in history, demonstrating the swift growth of the private space industry. As of Jan. 1, 2022, there were only 4,852 operating satellites in space, including 4,078 in low Earth orbit (LEO).

The Project Kuiper LEO satellite system, announced in 2019, aims to provide fast, affordable broadband to customers globally.

“These launch agreements reflect our incredible belief in Project Kuiper, and we’re proud to be working with such an impressive lineup of partners to deliver on our mission,” Amazon SVP Dave Limp said in a statement. “Securing launch capacity from multiple providers reduces scheduling risk and helps us secure competitive, long-term pricing that we can pass on to Project Kuiper customers as cost savings.”

Amazon currently has more than 1,000 people working on the Project Kuiper program. The company expects its existing business operations and areas of expertise will give Project Kuiper some competitive advantages. For instance, the broadband service could leverage Amazon’s global logistics and operations footprint for customer service, while Amazon Web Services will provide the networking and infrastructure necessary to serve a diverse, global customer base.

So far, Amazon hasn’t tapped SpaceX, Elon Musk’s rocket company, to launch any of its satellites. Starlink, SpaceX’s broadband satellite service, already has close to 2,000 satellites in orbit with around 250,000 subscribers. Still, SpaceX has committed to launching competing satellites into space.

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