Internet

Amazon signs record launch deals for internet megaconstellation Project Kuiper

Amazon has reserved space trips for the majority of its internet-satellite megaconstellation.

The company announced today (April 5) that it has signed contracts for up to 83 launches, which will make up the bulk of Amazon’s 3,236″.Kuiper ProjectInternet satellites. The deal package is “the largest commercial purchase of launch vehicles in history,” company officials said in a statement.

Amazon has secured 18 launches of Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rocket, 38 flights of United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan Centaur, and 12 missions (plus an option for 25 more) of Blue Origin’s New Glenn heavy carrier. (blue origin and Amazon were both founded by Jeff Bezos, the second richest person in the world.)

Related: What is a Satellite?

Amazon did not disclose the value of any of the contracts.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but the team has continued to push through every aspect of our satellite system,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices and Services. the same statement (opens in a new tab). “These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and confidence in the Kuiper project, and we are proud to work with such an impressive range of partners to carry out our mission.”

In particular, these partners do not include SpaceX, whose Starlink broadband constellation already provides services to customers around the world. SpaceX has launched more than 2,300 Stellar Link satellites to date using its Falcon 9 rocket and could end up launching around 30,000 more.

Unlike the Falcon 9, the rockets that Amazon has just chosen to launch the Kuiper project satellites are not yet operational. The Ariane 6 and Vulcan Centaur are expected to debut later this year, Arianespace and ULA representatives said. The first launch of New Glenn is likely will not take place before 2023.

It’s unclear why SpaceX didn’t receive a Project Kuiper launch contract. Corn, as noted by Eric Berger of Ars Technica (opens in a new tab), it probably didn’t come down to the competitive instinct on SpaceX’s part; Elon Musk’s company recently signed for launch OneWeb internet satellites which were originally to fly on Russian-made Soyuz rockets. (OneWeb’s Soyuz deal with Arianespace, which operated the rockets, fell apart after Russia invaded Ukraine.)

Amazon plans to launch two Project Kuiper prototypes later this year on ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket. Amazon also has a preexisting deal with Project Kuiper for nine launches on ULA’s Atlas V.

Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).