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I am now in the third week of my annual February birthday fund-raising drive. The first two weeks were good, but not record-setting.

 

There are still two weeks left in this campaign however. If you have been a regular reader and a fan of my work and have not yet donated or subscribed, please consider doing so. I take no ads, I keep the website clean from pop-ups and annoying demands (most of the time). Thus, I depend entirely on my readers to support me. Though this means I am sacrificing some income, it also means that I remain entirely independent from outside pressure. By depending solely on donations and subscriptions from my readers, no one can threaten me with censorship. You don't like what I write, you can simply go elsewhere.

 

You can support me either by giving a one-time contribution or a regular subscription. There are five ways of doing so:

 

1. Zelle: This is the only internet method that charges no fees. All you have to do is use the Zelle link at your internet bank and give my name and email address (zimmerman at nasw dot org). What you donate is what I get.

 

2. Patreon: Go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation.
 

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5. Donate by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman and mailed to
 
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Amazon signs launch contract with SpaceX

Amazon on December 1, 2023 announced it has signed a three-launch contract with SpaceX to place its Kuiper satellites into orbit, supplementing the launch contracts it presently has with ULA, Arianespace, and Blue Origin. From the Amazon press release:

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 is a reusable, two-stage launch vehicle designed for the reliable and safe transport of people and payloads into Earth orbit and beyond, and it has completed more than 270 successful launches to date. Project Kuiper has contracted three Falcon 9 launches, and these missions are targeted to lift off beginning in mid-2025.

In 2022 Amazon had signed contracts with the other three launch companies, with ULA getting 38 Vulcan launches (in addition to 9 already signed for its Atlas-5), Arianespace getting 18 Ariane-6 launches, and Blue Origin getting 12 New Glenn launches.

The problem however is that, except for the Atlas-5, none of these rockets has yet completed its first flight. Since Amazon’s FCC license requires it to get half of its constellation of 3,200+ satellites into orbit by 2026 or face penalties, the uncertainty of these rockets has probably forced Amazon management to consider SpaceX, despite likely hostility to such a deal from Jeff Bezos (owner of Blue Origin and founder of Amazon).

Amazon management also probably decided to sign this deal because of a lawsuit filed in September 2023 by company stockholders, accusing the management of neglience because it never even considered SpaceX in earlier contract negotiations while giving favoritism to Bezos’s company Blue Origin. At that time Amazon had already paid these launch companies about $1.7 billion, with Blue Origin getting $585 million, though not one rocket has yet launched, with Blue Origin showing no evidence that a launch coming anytime soon.

The impression of a conflict of interest by Amazon’s board of directors appeared very obvious. This new SpaceX contract weakens that accusation.

More important the deal will help Amazon actually get its satellites into orbit. It appears that reality is finally biting at Amazon, and its management has realized that the three companies they have been relying on might not be up to the job (especially Blue Origin).

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

12 comments

  • Ronaldus Magnus

    I read recently that Bezos/Blue Origin are purchasing another rocket company. Want to bet they will slap the Blue Origin logo on the rockets and announce Blue Origin successful.

    Who knows how far along SpaceX and Starship would be if the Hussein/Biden Regime were not in the way. There were times during the first President Trump administration that SpaceX was testing aspects of Starship once a month. I often explain to those that will listen the concept of test-to-failure. If you want to know how strong a fuel tank is, they kept filling it until it failed. May look spectacular, and now they determined the maximum pressure for the tank. The test was successful, but the Drive-By Media will never report it as such.

    I hope to live long enough to witness Starship orbit Mars, with or without humans on board.

  • john hare

    The story I read suggests that Blue might buy ULA.

    And Starship is not likely to be the last word in development. There are some serious concerns about second stage (Starship) recovery.

  • Ronaldus Magnus: Thank you for posting a link on Free Republic to my work. Much appreciated.

    And yes, the rumors are that Blue Origin is one of the companies bidding for ULA. Personally, I think it unlikely that it will buy ULA. I think it more likely that Lockheed Martin is planning to buy Boeing out to take over ULA entirely.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I have too much respect for Lockheed’s business acumen to see why they would want to saddle themselves with a loser like ULA, which is in turn dependent on a problematic engine from another loser, Blue Origin!

  • sippin_bourbon

    I must admit. I chuckled a bit at the headline.

  • Tom

    Only in American politics and our space launch industry can the most absurd fictions become a hard reality for many successful people.

  • David Eastman

    A recent article at Ars Technica indicated that the off the record discussions from insiders said that the most likely buyer for ULA was not a current launch company. Something like L3 Harris. I see that passing regulatory muster much faster and more easily than Blue buying it. Lockheed would be a wash from a regulatory standpoint, but many sources indicate that they are not interested.

    On SpaceX getting Kuiper contracts, I bet Bezos has mixed feelings and the Amazon board sees it as a pure win. It defuses the lawsuit, greatly increases the odds that they will either make their goal or at least persuade the FCC that they are trying everything in their power and deserve an extension, and while they’re giving money to a competitor, it’s far less of it coming out of their own pockets than if it had to go to Ariane, ULA, or Blue.

  • Chemist

    Let me see if I follow this:
    Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos who still owns about 10% of the company.
    Amazon wants to provide broadband services via their own satellite network: Kuiper.
    Bezos owns Blue Origin – a satellite delivery company (At least on paper).
    Amazon has just contracted with SpaceX to deliver Kuiper satellites.
    SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk and is a competitor to Blue Origin.
    Musk also owns Starlink – a broadband service provider and competitor to Kuiper.

    Have I got all that straight?

  • Chemist: Yup, you got all that straight. The most important words on the list that explain it all are these:

    At least on paper.

  • Col Beausabre

    From as previous life, “Does Macys talk to Gimbels?”

  • Edward

    Chemist,
    You missed one more important item:
    Amazon investors insisted on the contract between Kuiper and SpaceX to deliver several satellites.

    It may seem like a conflict of interest for SpaceX to launch these satellites, but the investors seemed to think that it was a conflict of interest not to.

    I think it is safe to ask, “what are they thinking,” for either of these concepts.

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