Falcon 9 launches – strategic partnership between Amazon and SpaceX
Amazon's Kuiper project, which aims to provide broadband Internet, could become a competitor to SpaceX's Starlink satellite network. There is no place for friendship in the world of business: Amazon announced a contract for three launches of Project Kuiper satellites on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. Thus, Amazon is expanding its capabilities to implement its deployment strategy. Information on the exact dates and costs of launches was not provided.
Project Kuiper, similar to Starlink, is being developed to provide broadband Internet access to millions of people around the world. SpaceX is already well ahead of its competitors, launching thousands of satellites and attracting more than two million subscribers to its Starlink network.
In October, Amazon launched two prototypes for the first time on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. A few weeks ago, Amazon announced that the satellites had successfully passed tests and were now scheduled to begin mass production at a plant in Kirkland, Washington. The SpaceX factory is also nearby in Redmond.
The first Kuiper satellites to users are due to launch early next year, with beta service becoming available in the second half of 2024. Under a license from the FCC, half of the Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites is expected to be in low-Earth orbit by mid-2026. Most of Amazon's launches are planned to be carried out on three types of rockets (which have not yet flown a single mission): Blue Origin's New Glenn, ULA's Vulcan and Arianespace's Ariane 6.
In addition to the three Falcon 9 launches, Amazon has reserved space on eight Atlas V rockets, which are solid choices. So SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch reservation provides some security for Amazon's deployment plan.
The selection of SpaceX for a portion of Project Kuiper's launches could also affect the lawsuit, which alleges Amazon did not sufficiently consider SpaceX as a potential launch provider.
In August, a pension fund that has Amazon shares in its portfolio filed a lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that Amazon's directors and officers refused to cooperate with SpaceX because of the latter's competition with Blue Origin.
“In light of SpaceX's proven reliability and economic advantages, the decision by Bezos-led Amazon not to even consider SpaceX as a launch provider highlights the conflicting interests Bezos has with Amazon and Blue Origin and the significant impact these conflicts will have on the board's ability to protect the interests of the company and its shareholders in conducting contract negotiations,” the pension fund said in its lawsuit.
SpaceX's choice for some of Kuiper's launches refutes the pension fund's arguments. However, a hearing in this case has not yet been scheduled. Amazon said that the pension fund's claims are “completely baseless” and they intend to prove this during the legal process.