Amazon has signed agreements for up to 83 rocket launches by three different providers in order to deploy its Project Kuiper constellation, high-speed internet service satellites. Amazon stated that the deals with Arianespace and Blue Origin represent the largest commercial acquisitions of launch vehicles in history.
Project Kuiper aims at providing high-speed internet in space. It competes with similar offerings by OneWeb and Space X's Starlink service. Amazon's US Federal Communications Commission license obligates Project Kuiper at least 50% of its planned constellation (3,236 satellites) by July 2026 and at least 90% by July 2029. Bloomberg reports that none of the rockets Amazon selected for its recent deals have flown yet.
Blue Origin, the company that was founded by Jeff Bezos and is responsible for Kuiper's twelve launches. It also has the option to launch an additional fifteen using its New Glenn rocket. Jarrett Jones (blue Origin's senior vice president) stated last month that New Glenn has been subject to multiple delays. This includes a recent one that prevented it from flying as planned.
United Launch Alliance won 38 launches of Amazon's bulk contract with its Vulcan Centaur rocket. ULA is a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. Centennial, Colo. ULA plans to fly its first Vulcan flight this year, according to a spokeswoman. Amazon signed a separate contract with ULA last year for nine launches using its Atlas V rocket.
Arianespace has signed 18 launches using its Ariane 6 rocket. This deal is part of a larger retail company. Paris-based European space company Arianespace plans to launch the first Ariane 6 test flight later in the year, and begin commercial service commissioning in 2023. ULA and Arianespace are two of the most well-known launch providers in this industry. . Blue Origin is a relative new company that is trying to get into the commercial rocket payload market.
Blue Origin has yet to announce when the New Glenn rocket will be available for commercial flight or test flights. In an email, Sara Blask, spokeswoman for Blue Origin, stated that "We are making great advances at New Glenn" and would fly when it is ready.
New Glenn will be powered with seven BE-4 liquid oxygen/liquid gas engines. This is the same engine that ULA selected to power its first stage of the Vulcan vehicle. Blue Origin delivered BE-4 engines to ULA for testing. They have been "performing fantastically" on the test benches, ULA CEO Tory Bruno stated March 22 at the satellite confer.
Project Kuiper, a Florida-based space company ABL Space Systems, announced plans to launch two prototype satellites from Florida in 2022 using its new RS1 rocket.