Amazon Acquires Three SpaceX Launches for Competing Internet Satellite Network

Amazon has made a surprise move by contracting three more SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets to launch its Project Kuiper satellite internet constellation, making it the fifth rocket to join the project. This comes after Amazon’s massive launch purchase earlier this year, which included 77 launches using Arianespace’s Ariane 6, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Vulcan, but did not include SpaceX. These new launches are in addition to the already planned nine using ULA’s Atlas 5 rocket, one of which has already launched the first two prototype satellites.

The first of the three planned Falcon 9 flights is scheduled for mid-2025. Amazon stated these additional flights would help it meet the deployment schedule for Project Kuiper. However, the company did not provide any further details on this matter.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper is under a tight schedule, as the company has to deploy half of its planned first-generation constellation, or 1,618 Kuiper satellites, by July 30, 2026, to meet the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) deadline. However, Amazon’s timeline could be affected by the delays in the development of its three main launch vehicles. The Ariane 6 rocket’s debut flight, for instance, won’t be launched until mid-2024, and only one more launch is planned for that year.

Similarly, Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket is still under development, and its first mission, the Mars-bound ESCAPADE, is not scheduled until late 2024. Meanwhile, ULA’s Vulcan rocket is set to have its maiden flight no sooner than December 24, with a series of booked flights following that. This means that the Vulcan rocket may not be available for Kuiper missions until mid- to late-2024.

Amazon is also facing legal issues, with a lawsuit claiming that the company’s board took less than 40 minutes to select Arianespace, Blue Origin, and ULA as the launch providers for the Project Kuiper constellation, thereby excluding SpaceX and allegedly committing Amazon to higher spending. However, Amazon has dismissed the claims.

Amazon has planned to invest $10 billion in the Project Kuiper constellation and is building a $120 million satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It remains unclear whether this facility will also be used for the SpaceX flights.

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