United Launch Alliance (ULA) will launch nine Atlas V rockets to deploy Amazon’s Project Kuiper internet satellites into space, according to an agreement the companies announced today.
ULA apparently won’t be the only company launching Kuiper satellites into low Earth orbit. Whether that could someday include Blue Origin — Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ rocket company — is uncertain.
“We’ve designed our satellites and dispenser system to accommodate multiple launch vehicles — this gives us the flexibility to use many different rockets and providers to launch our satellite system,” Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper, said in a company blog posted today. “Atlas V is a capable, reliable rocket, and we’re proud to be working with ULA to support these important first launches.”
Redmond is the primary headquarters for Project Kuiper’s research and development, as well as its primary prototype manufacturing and qualification facility.
Amazon said it will continue to explore all options to launch the rest of its satellite constellation and will work with other launch companies to advance U.S. leadership in space and create jobs.
Through its Kuiper Systems subsidiary, Amazon plans to launch more than 3,236 low-Earth-orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world.
In today’s blog post, Bezos said, “We’re determined to make affordable broadband a reality for customers and communities around the world. ULA is a fantastic partner that’s successfully launched dozens of missions for commercial and government customers, and we’re grateful for their support of Kuiper.”
The Atlas rocket family has a flawless record over more than 85 launches, the blog said. It added that Atlas rockets have launched multiple NASA missions, including the Perseverance Rover now on Mars.
In a release on the ULA website, president and CEO Tory Bruno said, “Project Kuiper will help bridge the digital divide across the United States and around the world, and we could not be more pleased to be working with Amazon to support the initiative. ULA is focused on serving our customer’s missions and providing reliable, innovative launch solutions. We look forward to launching these important missions.”
The Atlas V missions will launch from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Amazon said it’s supporting Project Kuiper through its initial $10-billion investment. More than 500 people at Amazon work on the program. Its job site listed 158 open jobs today at Project Kuiper in Redmond.
A few other openings are scattered at locations across the country.
Space X, also with operations in Redmond, already has begun launching its own version of broadband satellites, Starlink, into space.