Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Amazon opts for rival SpaceX as launch partner for internet satellite

Amazon.com Inc. has entered into an agreement with its competitor SpaceX for three launches using Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket, this move allows Amazon to secure additional capacity for deploying its internet-from-space satellites into orbit, Bloomberg reported.

As disclosed on its website last Friday, Amazon.com Inc. has finalized a deal that entails the e-commerce and cloud-computing powerhouse depending, in part, on its primary competitor to launch its satellite constellation into orbit. The launches utilizing SpaceX’s Falcon 9 are scheduled to commence in the middle of 2025, the report noted.

Bloomberg further reported that Starlink, the satellite constellation from SpaceX, is currently operational with around 5,000 satellites providing internet services from low-Earth orbit.

Also Read: Elon Musk’s SpaceX will be worth half-a-trillion dollars by 2030: Billionaire investor explains why

Meanwhile, Amazon’s Project Kuiper, following a comparable business model, has just launched its initial two test satellites out of a planned constellation of 3,236 satellites. The project is targeting beta testing with corporate clients in the latter half of the upcoming year.

SpaceX didn’t immediately return an emailed request for comment to Bloomberg. But in a post on X, the social-media company formerly known as Twitter, Musk wrote, “SpaceX launches competitor satellite systems without favor to its own satellites. Fair and square.”

Initially, Amazon aimed to launch its first satellites by the fourth quarter of 2022. However, setbacks, including testing failures and other issues with its launch partners, have caused delays in the scheduled flights.

Also Read: Elon Musk’s SpaceX Partners with Qatar Airways: Free 350Mbps Starlink WiFi for Passengers

In 2022, Amazon revealed an agreement with three launch service providers—United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin LLC founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Arianespace. The deal was structured for a minimum of 68 launches, potentially reaching up to 83 launches, utilizing the rockets from these companies to deploy the majority of the Project Kuiper constellation into orbit.

However, this arrangement hinges on the use of newly developed rockets that have not yet been launched into space and have faced multiple delays, Bloomberg noted.

Also Read: Elon Musk meets Israeli minister, agrees to provide Starlink services in Gaza, but …

In a distinct agreement, Amazon utilized United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) older but proven Atlas V rocket to transport its initial two satellites into orbit in October. Amazon still has eight more launches scheduled with this rocket, even though the Atlas V is currently in the process of being phased out of service.

Earlier this year, a pension fund filed a lawsuit against Bezos, Amazon’s board members, and the company itself. The lawsuit claimed that Amazon neglected to explore the option of employing dependable SpaceX rockets for Kuiper launches, citing the rivalry between Bezos and Musk as a factor.

Also Read: Elon Musk denies report of Starlink IPO plans, calls it ‘false’

This decision allegedly resulted in more costly rocket launches and project delays, as unexpected technical issues arose with the spacecraft from Blue Origin and other launch partners that Amazon was depending on. Amazon responded to the complaint, stating that the claims were without merit.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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Updated: 02 Dec 2023, 07:24 AM IST

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