March 31, 2023

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rendering using Amazon satellites.

ULA / Amazon

Amazon is preparing to launch its first Project Kuiper Internet satellites into orbit. Jeff Bezos’ company announced Monday that it has signed a nine-launch deal with the United Launch Alliance.

ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, will use its Atlas V series of missiles to launch the Kuiper missions. Amazon’s planned constellation would include 3,236 satellites in low-earth orbit. The company has announced that it will invest $ 10 billion in delivering high-speed broadband to consumers, businesses, and governments.

“We are determined to make affordable broadband a reality for customers and communities around the world,” Bezos said in a statement. “ULA is a fantastic partner that has successfully launched dozens of missions for commercial and government customers and we are grateful for Kuiper’s support.”

An Amazon spokesman declined to comment on the value of the startup contract. The company also does not disclose how many Kuiper satellites will be launched on each mission and which version of the Atlas V rocket will be used by ULA.

United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rendering using Amazon satellites.

ULA / Amazon

“The scope and scope of the initiative will also greatly strengthen US leadership in space, create job creation and create steady, dependable demand for the launch services industry,” said Tory Bruno, ULA President and CEO, in a statement.

The ULA deal is Amazon’s first with a rocket operator, although the company noted that “multiple launchers and launch partners are needed” to deploy Kuiper satellites in a timely manner. This leaves the door open for future Amazon launch agreements with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Bezos’ space company Blue Origin or the European launcher Arianespace. Although Bezos founded both Amazon and Blue Origin, the latter company is private and completely separate from the former.

Amazon has not yet released a schedule for Kuiper’s launch.

With the Federal Communications Commission clearing these launches last year, Amazon will have to deploy half of its planned satellites within six years – or about 1,600 in orbit by July 2026.

The company currently employs more than 500 people on the Kuiper project and in December completed the first development of the antenna, which is intended to connect users to the satellite network.

In recent months, Amazon has been arguing with SpaceX in front of government regulators. Bezos’ company has opposed changes Musk’s company wants to make to its Starlink network, which currently has more than 1,300 satellites in orbit. The two companies are part of an international cohort of competing global satellite broadband networks, including OneWeb, Astranis, Telesat and Lockheed Martin partner Omnispace.

Become a smarter investor with CNBC Pro.
Get stock picks, analyst calls, exclusive interviews and access to CNBC TV.
Sign in to start a free trial today