Amazon has signed rocket launch deals with Arianespace and United Launch Alliance. Arianespace has signed up for eighteen launches of the Ariane 6 rocket, and United Launch Alliance will provide the bulk of the space flights, with thirty-eight launches of its Vulcan. Blue Origin could potentially provide twenty-seven launches of its New Glenn rocket.
Amazon claims the rocket launch deal struck with three providers is the largest in the history of commercial space exploration. Amazon’s plan uses rockets from two veteran commercial space providers and Bezos’s Blue Origin company. Project Kuiper‘s success will depend on Amazon quickly getting its constellation of satellites into orbit.
A concern for Amazon is the untried nature of the rockets. Blue Origin has yet to create a working model of its New Glenn rocket, and both the Vulcan and Ariane six rockets are new versions of vehicles already used in orbit. None of the rockets Amazon plans on using will be able to offer the low cost and reusability of SpaceX rockets.
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have been engaged in a battle of the billionaires with Sir Richard Branson to dominate the commercial space industry. Bezos and Branson have made their way into orbit, with Musk becoming a trusted part of the space community. By signing the deal to launch up to eighty-three missions into space, Amazon is challenging SpaceX as the dominant space industry company.
“We still have lots of work ahead, but the team has continued to hit milestone after milestone across every aspect of our satellite system,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of devices and services at Amazon. “These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper.”
The plans offered by Amazon include using Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, which has a planned first launch in 2023. Musk’s SpaceX company has already agreed to take over the launch of the U.K.’s OneWeb broadband constellation of satellites.
Blue Origin and SpaceX have become direct competitors for launch contracts from NASA and the European Space Agency.