To hope to catch up with Elon Musk’s Starlink, Amazon has just signed several contracts with three major aerospace companies. Indeed, and to guarantee the sending of its 3,236 satellites into low orbit, the American giant offered the services of ULA, Arianespace and BlueOrigin, Jeff Bezos’ company.
Since 2019, Amazon has announced its ambitions to become a satellite internet service provider, like a certain Starlink, the service developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. To provide the means, the American e-commerce giant has already announced that it intends to invest 10 billion dollars to send more than 3,000 satellites into low orbit.
Not long ago, the French installations of Kuiper also opened their doors in Clichy, and we find Philippe Daly in front of them, responsible in particular for the development of Alexa, Amazon’s voice assistant. And although Starlink has been available in France since May 2021 now, the American company previously led by Jeff Bezos decided to change gears.
Amazon’s Project Kuiper Gets Into Action
In fact, the Seattle company announces this Tuesday, April 4, 2022 the signing of several contracts with big names in the aerospace industry, namely the American ALUFrench arianespace and Blue Origin, the company of Jeff Bezos. These three companies, specialized in rocket development and launchwill help Amazon ship to low orbit the 3,236 satellites which will form the constellation of the Kuiper project, an internet service via satellite from Amazon.
For those unfamiliar, the ULA or United Launch Alliance is the creator of the American launchers Atlas, Delta and the future Vulcan. Arianespace recently revealed Ariadne 6its state-of-the-art rocket, while Blue Origin has made a name for itself in the past with the New Shepard, a reusable single-stage rocket that you saw during the first manned flight into space in July 2021. Jeff Bezos was part of the crew.
These agreements provide for 83 releases spaced over a 5-year period🇧🇷 🇧🇷Ensuring launch capability with multiple vendors has been a key part of our strategy since day one,” says Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for the Kuiper project for Amazon. According to the giant’s statements, it was essential to resort to the services of several rocket operators to hope to reach Starlink, which has already deployed its constellation for three years.
A solid gold contract for Arianespace
In detail, Amazon ordered 18 Ariane 6 rockets from Arianespace to put some of these satellites into orbit (35 per launch). 🇧🇷A great moment in the history of the company”, welcomes Stéphane Israël, the company’s chief executive, in the official Amazon press release. It must be said that with this contract, Arianespace brings together the best conditions for meet its target of 11 flights a year with Ariane 6. The path to profitability. With these agreements, Arianespace can already count on six flights a year with Amazon alone.
The American ULA will obviously do its part, with no less than 38 launches planned via Vulcan rocket from the Cape Canaveral site in Florida. For the occasion, a second launch pad will also be built to proceed “for high-speed operations” with the Vulcan Centaur heavy launcher.
Then, without much surprise, we found Blue Origin. Jeff Bezos’ company will take care of twelve releases with New Glenn, the famous heavy launcher reusable 25 times. Note that Amazon has also taken an option for 15 additional releases, here again from the Cape Canaveral launch pad. As for the total amount spent by Amazon, it is kept secret, but according to many experts, such an investment easily exceeds the 10 billion dollars.
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The Kuiper project still has a long way to go before reaching Starlink
To hope to keep the dragee high at Starlink, Amazon wants to rely on its experience in key sectors such as logistics, of course, and above all Amazon Web Services Cloud Infrastructure, without forgetting hardware production. On the subject, Amazon is still working on the kit that will be provided to users of the Kuiper project. The goal is to offer something less imposing and cheaper than Starlink, whose the price is fixed at €499 in France.
After years of struggling to develop a reliable and practical antenna, Amazon nevertheless developed the miracle solution with a miniature antenna just 30 centimeters wide. Regarding the Kuiper deployment, should start no earlier than 2023, or even 2024/2025.
Source: Les Echos