Sometimes it’s good to be a competitor, and sometimes it’s nice to be a launch provider. SpaceX gets to be both and profit off its competitors. Amazon Senior Vice President Dave Limp said the company is also open to SpaceX’s capabilities to launch its Project Kuiper satellites.
SpaceX competitors can’t deny Falcon 9’s reliability
In an interview with Washington Post’s Christian Davenport, Limp discussed its process for choosing launch providers for Amazon’s Kuiper satellites. He discussed their attempt to spread the risk to several different providers and is open to launching with SpaceX, although Limp noted they would need the Falcon Heavy to lift what they want.
Yes we are open to talking to SpaceX, you’d be crazy not given their track record here. But I would say Falcon 9 is probably at the low end of the compacity that we need but as you think about them, getting more Falcon Heavy but more importantly as they think about Starship and getting that into production readiness. Those become very viable candidants for us as well.Dave Limp, Senior Vice President Devices & Services, Amazon
Amazon isn’t the only one that finds SpaceX’s rockets appealing for launching its Starlink competitors. OneWeb announced a partnership with Elon Musk’s company shortly after pulling out of Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine and demands made by the then Director of Roscosmos Dimitry Rogozin. SpaceX will launch three missions for OneWeb, starting at the end of this year and going into 2023.
Amazon has agreements to launch Kuiper satellites with several providers, including sister company Blue Origin, ULA, ABL, and Arianespace. Originally Kuiper was only going to launch on Blue Origin’s New Glenn, keeping the product in the Bezos family of companies. However, that rocket’s debut has been delayed to the end of 2023 at the earliest, so plans with ULA’s remaining Altas V rockets were announced in April 2021.
Right now, no Amazon Kuiper satellites are planned to launch until next year.
First demo sats are finishing integration
Also mentioned in Davenport’s interview, Limp gave an update on when we might see the first Kuiper satellite launch. The first two demo satellites are finishing up integration and testing at Amazon’s facility in Redmond, Washington. Limp expects testing to finish by the end of the year and delivery of these prototypes to ULA in Florida for launch in Q1 of 2023.
While many people think Starlink has the low Earth orbit ISP market tied up, Limp believes there will be room for more to enter the space and coexist. Only time will tell, however, as SpaceX and OneWeb finish up their constellations and others like Amazon are just getting started.