Amazon's SpaceX-rivaling internet service Project Kuiper has made a major leap towards becoming operational and catching up with SpaceX's Starlink, which is already populating our skies.
That's because Amazon announced on Tuesday, April 5, what it calls the biggest commercial rocket deal in the history of commercial space programs, a press statement reveals.
The tech giant reached an agreement with three companies for up to 83 launches of its Project Kuiper internet satellites. United Launch Alliance (ULA) will operate 38 of those launches, European firm Arianespace will operate 18 of the launches, and 12 will be carried out by Blue Origin, which was founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
When it is fully deployed, Project Kuiper will be comprised of a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit, which will be able to provide high-speed internet anywhere in the world. The service will rival SpaceX's own Starlink internet satellites, more than 2,000 of which are already in operation.
The FCC authorized Amazon's system in 2020. SpaceX, by comparison, has permission to launch an additional 12,000 satellites, and it is seeking FCC approval to launch approximately 30,000 more.
Amazon to invest more than $10 billion in Kuiper
Amazon claims it will "invest more than $10 billion to build" out its own system, and it also says it "will leverage Amazon's global logistics and operations footprint, as well as Amazon Web Services' (AWS) networking and infrastructure" to make its service more accessible.
Later this year, Amazon will test two prototype Kuiper satellites, which will launch aboard an ABL Space RS1 rocket. Though Amazon hasn't revealed when exactly it aims for its Kuiper service to be in operations, the FCC's rules require the company to deploy half of its satellites within six years.
For its 12 Kuiper mission launches, Blue Origin will use its New Glenn rockets, which have yet to hit the launchpad. Arianespace will use its new Ariane 6 rockets, which will make their debut this year, and ULA will use both its Atlas V and its new Vulcan rockets.
Though none of these companies have commented on the cost of the operation, Amazon says in its statement that the new deal is "the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history." It sounds like they're placing a lot of faith in Project Kuiper, especially as Amazon's satellite prototype tests aren't set to launch until the final quarter of 2022, and all of the rockets used for upcoming launches are still in development.