Amazon on Tuesday announced the largest commercial launch deal in history, unveiling contracts for up to 83 missions to deploy thousands of satellite satellites on the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur, Ariane 6’s Ariane 6 and Blue Origin’s New Glenn vehicles.
The agreements strengthen the trading business for all three missiles, with more than double the remaining Vulcan Centaur, Ariane 6 and New Glenn missiles before any of them have ever flown.
Amazon’s Kuiper network, similar in concept to the Starlink constellation from SpaceX and the OneWeb satellite fleet, will provide customers with between 56 degrees north and 56 degrees southbound broadband internet connection with low latency Ka-band internet connection.
The multi-billion dollar contracts with ULA, Arianespace and Blue Origin are the largest commercial purchases of firearms in history. Financial details were not released and officials did not say when the launches will begin.
“Project Kuiper will provide tens of millions of customers with fast, manageable broadband in communities that are not served and under-served around the world,” said Dave Limp, Amazon’s vice president of tools and services. “There is still a lot of work ahead, but the team has continued to catch up step by step in all aspects of our satellite system.
“These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and faith in Project Kuiper, and we are proud to work with such an impressive team of partners to fulfill our role,” Limp said in a statement.
Half of Kuiper’s 3,236 satellites must be launched by mid-2026 for Amazon to retain Internet access from the Federal Communications Commission. None of the satellites have been launched so far, but Amazon plans to launch the first two Kuiper prototypes of the astronauts during the launch of ABL Space Systems’ new RS1 rocket before the end of this year.
Last April, Amazon announced a contract with ULA to launch some of its first Kuiper satellites in nine Atlas 5 missile missions. ULA is discontinuing the Atlas 5 in favor of the next generation Vulcan Centaur rocket.
The new deal announced on Tuesday covers 38 shots on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket. ULA said it plans to upgrade and expand its launch facility at the Cape Canaveral space station to support the high flight speeds required to fulfill the Amazon agreement.
The upgrades include a second, dedicated mobile launch pad for the Kuiper missions, and the transformation of ULA’s aerospace processing and operations center at Cape Canaveral to serve as another vertical integration facility for stacking and integrating rockets before being launched onto the launch pad.
“This agreement marks the beginning of an exciting new era for ULA and for the entire U.S. launch industry,” said Tory Bruno, President and CEO of ULA, the 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. “With a total of 47 shots between our Atlas and Vulcan vehicles, we are proud to launch the majority of this important zodiac sign.
“It will support hundreds of jobs, especially in places like Alabama, Colorado and Florida, and Amazon’s investment in launch infrastructure and upgrading capabilities will benefit both customers and government customers,” said Bruno.
The Kuiper expeditions will use the heaviest version of the Vulcan Centaur with a six-strap-on solid rocket booster, according to Bruno.
Amazon also committed to 18 flights with Arianespace, using the new European Ariane 6 rocket launched from Kourou, French Guiana.
“This agreement, the largest we have ever signed, is a major moment in the history of Arianespace,” said Stéphane Israël, CEO of Arianespace, in a statement. “We are honored to play an important role in Amazon’s distribution. Project Kuiper, which aims to connect tens of millions of people to the Internet.
Israel said the agreement with Amazon “will be based on European innovation, industry strength and many years of experience, and it is a great victory for the European launch industry. The fact that Amazon has chosen Ariane 6 to do the job is a huge source of pride for us and a lot of confidence in our new shotgun. “
All 18 Arianespace flights for Amazon will use the Ariane 64 rocket mode with four solid rocket-boosting clusters around the main freezing stage. Sixteen of the projects will use upgraded versions of the Ariane 64 with more powerful solid-fueled stimulation engines.
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, initially worked on 12 projects for Project Kuiper using the New Glenn rocket’s heavy lift. Amazon secured options for up to 15 additional Glenn projects.
“We are honored to support Amazon’s ambitious mission to provide affordable, affordable broadband to communities that are not served and under-served worldwide with our New Glenn and BE-4s,” said Jarrett Jones, Blue Glenn’s Vice President of Blue Origin. . . “The new Glenn seven-meter cladding offers unprecedented mass and volume capabilities, giving Project Kuiper maximum launch flexibility.”
Blue Origin will also build the BE-4s that power the Vulcan Centaur ULA rocket. The Vulcan stimulation engine uses two BE-4 engines, augmented with a different number of fixed missiles, while the New Glenn will be powered by seven BE-4 engines, without reliable rocket impulses.
The Kuiper program operates as a separate entity from Blue Origin, which means that Bezos’ space company had to offer Kuiper shots in a competitive procurement process.
The new Glenn projects will start from Space Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral.
Officials from each Kuiper firing range said their missiles could carry dozens of Amazon satellites in one flight. The Ariane 64 missile will fire between 35 and 40 satellites per trip, the Vulcan Centaur can receive 45 Kuiper satellites per shot and New Glenn can draw 61 per shot.
These numbers, combined with the previous Kuiper launch agreement for nine ULA Atlas 5 missiles, mean that Amazon has secured enough firing capability to distribute all 3,236 satellites in its satellite system, and so on.
None of Amazon’s rockets have flown yet. ULA and Arianespace say their teams are on track to launch their first Vulcan Centaur and Ariane 6 test flights before the end of this year. The first launch of the Blue Glenn New Origin rocket has been delayed since 2020, and the company’s CEO last month ruled out the possibility of launching the first New Glenn pilot this year.
The SpaceX Falcon rocket family, the most fledged type of commercial launcher in recent years, did not win any of the launch service agreements announced by Amazon on Wednesday. Bezos and Musk are two of the richest people in the world and their space travel companies are competitors in the space industry.
The Starlink network developed by SpaceX is also a competitor to Project Kuiper.
Last month, SpaceX and OneWeb – also rivals – announced an agreement to launch OneWeb’s satellites on SpaceX Falcon 9 missiles. OneWeb planned to launch the rest of its first-generation satellite fleet on Russian Soyuz missiles with a contract signed with Arianespace, but trade and international Soyuz expeditions have been halted following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
To date, OneWeb has launched 428 of its planned first-generation constellations, 648 satellites on 13 Soyuz missiles. SpaceX has launched 2,335 Starlink satellites on its multi-purpose Falcon 9 rocket.
Amazon is starting late on its zodiac sign, but the company is developing its spacecraft in its own premises.
“There are now more than 1,000 people at Amazon working on the Kuiper project and the team continues to make progress as it approaches full, production-ready distribution – completing its high-performance satellite design, producing a compact, cost-effective customer base and setting up a secure, reliable a telecommunications network that connects satellite to customers and ground-based infrastructure, “said Amazon.
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.