Amazon signs largest commercial space rocket launch deal in history


Amazon is acquiring up to 83 rocket launches from three different vendors to provide the bulk of its planned Project Kuiper satellite constellation for high-speed internet services.

The deals with Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance represent the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history, Amazon said in a statement. Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed internet from space and competes with similar offerings from Space Exploration Technologies’ Starink service and UK-based OneWeb.

Amazon’s FCC license requires Project Kuiper to launch at least half of its planned constellation of 3,236 satellites by July 2026 and at least 90 percent of its constellation by July 2029. The company declined to specify the exact number of satellites it plans to launch with the trio of rocket providers and the total contract value.

None of the three rockets chosen by Amazon in its recent offerings have flown.

Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will conduct 12 missions for Kuiper with an option for 15 additional launches on its New Glenn rocket. New Glenn has experienced several delays, including a recent one that will prevent it from flying as previously planned this year, Blue Origin senior vice president Jarrett Jones said at the Satellite 2022 conference last month.

United Launch Alliance won the largest share of the Amazon contract, 38 launches, with its new Vulcan Centaur rocket. Based in Centennial, Colorado, ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. ULA is planning a maiden flight for the Vulcan later this year, a spokeswoman said.
Last year, Amazon completed nine launches from ULA on its older Atlas V rocket as part of a separate deal for Project Kuiper satellites.

Under the retail giant’s latest agreements, Arianespace will conduct 18 launches on its still-development Ariane 6 rocket. The Paris-based European space consortium is planning the first Ariane 6 test flight later this year, with commercial operations starting in 2023.
Arianespace and ULA are among the most established launch providers in the industry. Blue Origin is a relatively new vendor working to break into the commercial rocket payload business.

Blue Origin hasn’t said when its New Glenn rocket will begin test flights or commercial service. “We are making great progress on New Glenn and we will fly when we are ready,” spokeswoman Sara Blask said in an email.

The New Glenn is powered by seven BE-4 liquid oxygen/liquefied natural gas engines, the same model selected by ULA to power the first stage of its Vulcan vehicle. Blue Origin has shipped some BE-4 engines to ULA for testing, and they have “performed beautifully” on test benches, said Tory Bruno, ULA’s chief executive officer.

Project Kuiper plans to launch two prototype satellites in 2022. Amazon signs largest commercial space rocket launch deal in history

Fry Electronics Team

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