Amazon Secures Up to 83 Launches from Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance for Project Kuiper
Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team
Agreements comprise the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history, providing heavy-lift capacity for Project Kuiper to deploy majority of its low Earth orbit (LEO) constellation of 3,236 satellites
Launches planned with Arianespace’s Ariane 6, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rockets; Beyond Gravity to build low-cost, scalable dispenser system to deploy satellites
Agreements will drive innovation and job creation across the space industry, supporting thousands of suppliers and highly skilled jobs in 49 states across the United States and 13 countries in Europe
SEATTLE – (BUSINESS WIRE) – April 5, 2022 – Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced agreements with Arianespace, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide heavy-lift launch services for Project Kuiper, Amazon’s initiative to increase global broadband access using a constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO). The contracts total up to 83 launches over a five-year period, providing capacity for Amazon to deploy the majority of its 3,236-satellite constellation. It is the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history.
“Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world,” said Dave Limp, Senior Vice President for Amazon Devices & Services. “We still have lots of work ahead, but the team has continued to hit milestone after milestone across every aspect of our satellite system. These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper, and we’re proud to be working with such an impressive lineup of partners to deliver on our mission.”
Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband to a wide range of customers, including individual households, schools, hospitals, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief operations, mobile operators, and other organizations working in places without reliable internet connectivity. Amazon is designing and developing the entire system in-house, combining a constellation of advanced LEO satellites with small, affordable customer terminals and a secure, resilient ground-based communications network. Project Kuiper will leverage Amazon’s global logistics and operations footprint, as well as Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) networking and infrastructure, to serve a diverse, global customer base. Project Kuiper will also apply Amazon’s experience producing low-cost devices and services like Echo and Kindle to deliver service at an affordable, accessible price for customers.
“Securing launch capacity from multiple providers has been a key part of our strategy from day one,” said Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper at Amazon. “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. We’re excited to move one step closer to connecting residential, business, and government customers around the world.”
The scale of these contracts will also boost the wider launch services industry, driving innovation and job creation in the United States and Europe. Suppliers from 49 U.S. states help develop and manufacture the next-generation, heavy-lift launch vehicles from Blue Origin and ULA, while Arianespace relies on ArianeGroup’s network of suppliers from 13 European countries to produce its Ariane 6 rocket. In addition, Amazon is working with Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space), a Switzerland-headquartered space technology provider, to build low-cost, scalable satellite dispensers that will help deploy the Project Kuiper constellation. Beyond Gravity is opening an all-new production facility as a result of the partnership, doubling its production capacity and creating dozens of jobs in Linköping, Sweden.
Arianespace, the European spaceline, has established itself as a leader in the global launch services industry, completing 15 successful launches last year, including the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in late December. Arianespace is on its way to start operating its next-generation heavy-lift launch vehicle, Ariane 6, which is scheduled to launch for the first time by the end of this year. Amazon has secured 18 Ariane 6 rockets as part of this initial agreement.
“This contract, the largest we’ve ever signed, is a great moment in Arianespace’s history. We are honored to be given a significant role to play in the deployment of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which aims to connect tens of millions of people to the internet,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace. “It will build on the European innovative spirit, industrial might, and years of experience, and it is a major win for the European launcher industry. That Amazon has chosen the Ariane 6 to do the job is a matter of tremendous pride for us and a great vote of confidence in our new launch vehicle.”
Amazon has signed an agreement with Blue Origin to secure 12 launches using New Glenn, with options for up to 15 additional launches. New Glenn is powered by seven BE-4 engines and its reusable first stage is built for a minimum of 25 missions.
“We’re honored to support Amazon’s ambitious mission to provide reliable, affordable broadband to unserved and underserved communities around the world through New Glenn and our BE-4 engines,” said Jarrett Jones, Senior Vice President, New Glenn, Blue Origin. “New Glenn’s seven-meter fairing offers unprecedented mass and volume capabilities, providing Project Kuiper maximum launch flexibility. We also congratulate our partner, United Launch Alliance. We’re proud to build American-made engines for ULA’s Vulcan Centaur.”
United Launch Alliance
Amazon’s agreement with ULA covers 38 launches on Vulcan Centaur, ULA’s newest heavy-lift launch vehicle. This launch services contract also covers production and launch infrastructure to support a higher cadence of launches at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, including a new, dedicated version of the Vulcan Launch Platform (VLP). ULA is making additional investments in its Spaceflight Processing & Operations Center (SPOC) to deliver a second ULA facility capable of full vehicle processing, transforming the launch site to have two parallel “launch lanes” for high-cadence operations. The agreement is in addition to Project Kuiper’s existing deal to secure nine Atlas V vehicles from ULA.
“This agreement marks the beginning of an exciting new era for ULA and for the entire U.S. launch industry. With a total of 47 launches between our Atlas and Vulcan vehicles, we are proud to launch the majority of this important constellation,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and CEO. “It will support hundreds of jobs, especially in places like Alabama, Colorado and Florida, and Amazon’s investments in launch infrastructure and capability upgrades will benefit both commercial and government customers.”
Project Kuiper plans to launch two prototype missions later this year on ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket. There are now more than 1,000 people at Amazon working on Project Kuiper, and the team continues to make progress as it approaches a full, production-ready deployment—finalizing its high-performance satellite design, producing a compact, affordable customer terminal, and deploying a secure, reliable communications network that connects satellites to customers and infrastructure on the ground. Once deployed, the Kuiper System will have the capacity to serve tens of millions of residential, business, and government customers in places without reliable broadband. Moving forward, Amazon will continue to partner with companies that share its commitment to closing the global digital divide and creating new opportunities for innovation. To learn more about Project Kuiper, watch our overview video.
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