Amazon challenges Starlink with satellite internet deal

Amazon is taking on SpaceX’s internet satellite constellation, Starlink. The company has signed a deal with three companies to launch up to 83 of its Internet Project Kuiper satellites, marking what Amazon calls the biggest rocket contract in commercial space history.

The company has an agreement with United Launch Alliance for 38 launches; signed with Arianespace for 18 launches; and partnered with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin for 12 launches, with the option for Amazon to add up to 15 more. SpaceX is notably absent from the launch list, but that’s to be expected given what’s happening in orbit.

Project Kuiper plans to send satellites into low Earth orbit over a five-year period, and it has two prototypes ready for launch this year. These satellites would provide internet service similar to Starlink, Elon Musk’s constellation of low Earth orbit satellites. That would put him once again in competition with Bezos – who is no longer Amazon’s CEO but remains its executive chairman – for billionaire space supremacy.

Dave Limp, Amazon’s senior vice president for devices and services, told the Wall Street Journal that the company signed the agreements to help meet a deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission. The agency gave Project Kuiper permission to deploy 3,236 broadband satellites last year. The conditions call for at least half of these satellites to be operational within six years.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but the team has continued to push through every aspect of our satellite system step by step. These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in the Kuiper project,” Limp said. in a press release.

Limp declined to tell the Journal exactly how much the company is spending on those launches, but he said it was in the billions. Amazon said it would “invest more than $10 billion” to build this high-speed internet network when it reached an agreement with the FCC.

The company is making it clear that there is room for another big player in the satellite internet game outside of Starlink. But Amazon is catching up with Musk’s satellite internet service, which already has about 2,000 satellites in orbit and 250,000 subscribers, according to Elon himself.

But Amazon is clearly investing a lot of money in its future satellite internet service, and Limp told the Journal that there could be more than one satellite broadband company to serve more unconnected and underserved people in the world. world. Of course, this will also increase the risk of space debris and disrupt astronomers’ view of the sky. While the world may well be using more satellite internet providers, low earth orbit may be a different story.

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