Amazon lines up satellite launches to take on Musk’s Starlink

The logo of Amazon is seen at the company logistics center in Lauwin-Planque, northern France, February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

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April 5 (Reuters) — Inc (AMZN.O) has secured rocket launches with three companies, the company said on Monday, as it spends billions on putting together a satellite constellation to beam broadband internet that will rival Elon Musk-owned SpaceX’s Starlink.

The e-commerce giant said its Project Kuiper has secured 83 launches over five years and includes a deal with Blue Origin, a company owned by Amazon founder and chairman Jeff Bezos.

The race to beam broadband internet using thousands of satellites in low earth object is hotting up, with SpaceX so far stealing a march over other players. Project Kuiper is yet to put a satellite in space.

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«Amazon is investing billions of dollars across the three agreements. Together, it is the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history,» an Amazon spokesperson told Reuters.

The contract includes 18 launches with Arianespace’s Ariane 6 rockets, 12 launches with Blue Origin’s New Glenn and 38 launches with Vulcan Centaur rocket made by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture between Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) and Boeing Co (BA.N).

Together, they will provide capacity for the company to deploy the majority of its satellite constellation, the company said.

Project Kuiper aims to use over 3,000 satellites in low earth orbit to beam high-speed, low-latency internet to customers, including households, businesses and government agencies.

Securing launch capacity from multiple providers reduces risks associated with launch vehicle stand-downs and saves costs that can be passed on to customers, said Rajeev Badyal, vice president of technology for Project Kuiper.

Considering delays that Blue Origin’s New Glenn has faced and that they are yet to test or fly makes them higher risk compared to the «evolutionary» Ariane 6 and Vulcan designs, Canaccord Genuity analyst Austin Moeller said.

Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine, which will also power the Vulcan rocket, has faced multiple delays.

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Reporting by Akash Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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