Amazon signed the largest launch contract in history

Amazon has announced the conclusion of the “deal of the century”: The largest commercial launch contract in history. It provides for the withdrawal of Kuiper satellites designed to provide global satellite Internet services. The company did not name the exact amount of the transaction, but it is known that we are talking about billions of dollars.

“Deal of the Century”

Amazon has signed launch agreements with three companies — Arianespace, Blue Origin and ULA. The last one received an order for 38 Vulcan rocket launches. In addition to the carriers, the deal also provides for investments in infrastructure that will increase the frequency of launches for the needs of Amazon. Earlier, Amazon had already ordered nine Atlas V rockets from ULA.

Vulcan rocket (concept). Source: ULA

Arianespace has received an order to launch 18 Ariane 6 rockets. This is the largest contract in the company’s history.

And finally, Blue Origin (which, like Amazon, was founded by Jeff Bezos) has signed an agreement to launch 12 New Glenn rockets with the possibility of additional purchase of 15 more rockets.

New Glenn rocket in the artist’s image. Source: Blue Origin

Thus, in case of full implementation of the contract, Amazon will buy 83 launches. According to the company’s representatives, they will ensure the withdrawal of the main part of the Kuiper satellites. 

Interestingly, Amazon has signed contracts with almost all major Western launch operators, except SpaceX. However, considering that Starlink is a direct competitor to the Kuiper system, as well as mutual criticism between Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, this is not surprising. At the same time, it is worth noting that the rockets selected for the deployment of the system have not yet been put into operation. Thus, even in the best case, launches of Kuiper satellites are unlikely to begin before 2023-2024.

Project Kuiper Satellite Internet System

Amazon first announced its plans to create its global satellite Internet system in 2019. It was named Project Kuiper — in honor of the famous astronomer Gerard Kuiper. The grouping will consist of 3,226 vehicles deployed in orbits with heights of 590, 610 and 630 km. Amazon plans to fully cover the area between 56 ° North latitude and 56° South latitude with satellite Internet, thus covering approximately 95% of the world’s population.

Satellite constellation Kuiper (concept). Source: Amazon

The first two prototypes of the system’s satellites will be launched by the RS1 small rocket, created by ABL Space Systems. So far, this mission is scheduled for the end of 2022.

Recall that SpaceX recently agreed to help OneWeb and launch the remaining satellites of the system.

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