Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O) announced on Monday that it has secured rocket launches with three businesses as it invests billions in building a satellite constellation to beam broadband internet that will compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink.
Over the past five years, Amazon’s Project Kuiper has secured 83 launches, including a partnership with Blue Origin, a business owned by Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos.
The race to beam broadband internet via thousands of low-earth-orbit satellites is heating up, with SpaceX gaining a leg up on the competition so far. By the end of the year, Project Kuiper hopes to launch its first two prototype satellites.
“Across the three deals, Amazon is investing billions of dollars. It is the world’s largest commercial launch vehicle procurement ever.
The deal calls for 18 launches with Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rockets, 12 flights with Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket – with an option to add up to 15 more – and 38 launches with United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, which is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Boeing Co. (BA.N).
According to the business, they will give enough capacity for the corporation to install the majority of its satellite constellation.
The deals are based on three heavy-lift rockets that have yet to launch and have been delayed in development. According to Stéphane Isral, chief executive of Arianespace, the Ariane 6 could launch up to 40 Kuiper spacecraft every mission.
Blue Origin’s New Glenn would carry 61 Kuiper satellites, while ULA’s Vulcan will carry 45, according to the businesses’ CEOs at a conference in Colorado Springs on Tuesday.
Amazon’s devices chief, Dave Limp, said the company “wanted diversity in our launch relationships,” which already include ties with ULA and rocket startup ABL Space.
“It’s Arianespace’s largest deal ever signed,” ArianeGroup CEO André-Hubert Roussel told Reuters, declining to reveal financial details. “It’s the culmination of two and a half years of discussions with them,” he added, adding that the launches will occur between 2024 and 2027.
Project Kuiper seeks to beam high-speed, low-latency internet to clients, including households, businesses, and government organisations, using over 3,000 satellites in low earth orbit.
According to Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, securing launch capacity from several providers reduces risks associated with launch vehicle stand-downs and saves costs that can be passed on to consumers.
The BE-4 engine from Blue Origin, which will also power the Vulcan rocket, has been delayed several times.