Amazon satellite plans to accelerate the confrontation with SpaceX



Amazon CEO Bezos and SpaceX founder musk, who are in the top two on the Forbes list, have never been limited to this competition. Not long ago, the satellite internet service project “star chain” of SpaceX, an aerospace company owned by musk, set a record of 143 satellites launched at one time. Now Amazon’s satellite network layout also has new developments. The company is planning to launch the first batch of satellites of its “project Kuiper”.

On Monday, local time, Amazon announced that it has signed a contract with the joint launch Alliance (ULA) for nine satellite launches. Ula is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, which provides launch services for satellite and space missions and is known for undertaking government missions rather than commercial ones.

This is the first contract signed between Amazon and the rocket operator, but it is worth noting that, unlike SpaceX, which launches satellites with its rockets, Amazon does not cooperate with Bezos’ space company Blue origin. Ula will launch project Kuiper using its Atlas V series rockets. This type of rocket has been used in the missions of NASA. It has been launched more than 50 times, only one of which has failed partially, and the other missions have all succeeded.

“The scope and scale of the program will also greatly enhance the U.S. leadership in space, help create jobs, and provide stable and reliable demand for the launch services industry,” said Uri Bruno, chairman and CEO of ula

Xiang Ligang, a communications expert, told Beijing Business Daily that although the founders of Amazon and blue origin are both Bezos, blue origin is a non listed company, completely separated from the former. Moreover, the launch of blue origin rocket is not as mature as SpaceX, so it’s safer for Amazon to choose some experienced and technical partners for its first satellite launch.

However, this does not rule out the possibility of future cooperation. Amazon said, “we will need multiple launch vehicles and launch partners” to deploy the project Kuiper satellite on time. So it also opens the door for Amazon to cooperate with SpaceX, blue origin or Arianespace in the future.

Although the cooperation has been finalized, there is still uncertainty. For example, an Amazon spokesman declined to disclose the exact amount of the contract, nor did he mention how many project Kuiper satellites would be launched for each mission, nor what version of Atlas V rocket would be used by Ula. In addition, Amazon has not yet announced when the launch of the project Kuiper satellite will begin.

Beijing Business Daily also contacted Amazon and ula about the cooperation and follow-up plans, but as of press, no reply has been received.

According to Amazon’s previously announced plan, they will invest $10 billion to launch 3236 satellites into orbit, including 784 satellites in 590 km orbit, 1156 satellites in 630 km orbit and 1296 satellites in 610 km orbit, so as to achieve global coverage of the Internet and provide high-speed broadband for consumers, enterprises and governments.

At present, Amazon has more than 500 employees participating in the project Kuiper, and completed the preliminary development of the antenna to connect users to the satellite network in December last year.

When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved Amazon’s satellite launch last year, Amazon was required to deploy half of its planned satellites within six years, that is to say, about 1600 satellites will need to be launched into low earth orbit in July 2026.

However, this progress has lagged far behind SpaceX, which has developed the “star chain” project, which currently has more than 1300 satellites in orbit. In recent months, Amazon has also clashed with SpaceX in front of government regulators against the changes it wants to make to its “star chain” network.

Last week, Gwynne shotwell, President and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said that as long as five more “Starlink” satellites were launched, the company could have enough satellites in orbit to provide Internet access services almost anywhere on earth.

Xiang Ligang said frankly that the most representative is the “star chain” of LEO satellites. The advantage of SpaceX is that it costs less to launch rockets, and the cost of mass-produced satellites is even lower.

However, Xiang Ligang further analyzed that in terms of satellite launch, Amazon’s competitors are not only SpaceX, and the whole communication satellite industry is a big market.

Indeed, these two companies are not the only competitors in the global satellite broadband network service field. Other competitors include oneweb, astranis, telesat and Lockheed Martin’s partner omnispace. It is reported that oneweb initially planned to launch 648 satellites into low earth orbit to provide global Internet services. Last May, the company applied for another 48000 satellites to be launched into low earth orbit, which is more than the 30000 applied by SpaceX.

Beijing Business Daily reporter Tao Feng Zhao Tianshu

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