Amazon buys Atlas V rockets to orbit its Kuiper constellation
On Monday, April 19, Amazon announced that it purchased nine Atlas V rocket flights from United Launch Alliance for the orbital insertion of its Kuiper satellites.
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s answer to privatized satellite-provided internet, such as the SpaceX Starlink system. Its hope is to provide cheap and reliable high-speed, low-latency broadband internet to unserved and underserved communities around the globe.
“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,” said ULA CEO Tory Bruno. “ULA is focused on serving our customer’s missions and providing reliable, innovative launch solutions. We look forward to launching these important missions.”
Given that the majority of ULA’s customers are NASA and national security missions, this announcement symbolizes a big win in the realm of commercial customers for the company.
While both ULA and Blue Origin, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ private space company, are both building and developing new orbital-class rockets of their own, many were left wondering why Amazon would choose the Atlas V. The FCC set a deadline of 2025 for the company to place all of its Kuiper satellites into orbit. By contracting with ULA, Amazon wanted to ensure the satellites would be placed in orbit by or before that deadline.
While both ULA and Blue Origin have Vulcan and New Glenn, respectively, in development, the Atlas V has a proven track record of incredible reliability.
The exact launch dates are not known, however ULA announced that each flight will liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Neither company has said what configuration of Atlas V will be required for launch. However, Amazon has said it intends to launch around 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit to make up the full constellation.
Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.