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Amazon signs ULA’s Atlas 5 for first 9 Kuiper satellite launches

Capitalism in space: Amazon today announced that it has signed a launch contract with ULA to use its Atlas 5 rocket for the first 9 Kuiper satellite launches.

The announcement did not say when these flights will take place, nor how many Kuiper satellites will be on each. Amazon’s license with the FAA requires that it launch half its 3,200 satellite constellation by ’26. Also ULA intends to retire the Atlas 5 in only a few years, replacing it with its Vulcan rocket. This suggests that the launches will occur in the next three years.

They better. Starlink is already going operational, and OneWeb is about to. Plus several other internet constellations are in the pipeline. If Amazon wishes to compete it needs to get those satellites in orbit as quickly as possible. Internet customers don’t generally change their servers easily, tending to stick with whom they’ve got. If Starlink and OneWeb scoop up all the best low-hanging internet fruit Amazon will find itself facing an uphill battle getting customers.

The article revealed one tidbit of interest. Rajeev Badyal, Amazon’s VP of technology for the Kuiper project, was one of the managers Elon Musk fired from his Starlink project in 2018 after realizing that that management team was moving far too slowly for his tastes. It appears Jeff Bezos then hired Badyal to run Kuiper.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

One comment

  • Jay

    I have seen a couple concept drawings, but I have not seen the dimensions of the Kuiper satellites. I too wonder how many can you fit into an Atlas 5 or Vulcan? I am surprised they mentioned that New Glenn will not be operational until 2022, but the first nine launches will be on an Atlas over three years. Interesting observation Bob.
    There are over 1,300 Starlink satellites and that took 24 launches. It seems the standard to launch 60 satellites per Falcon-9. Another 60 will be launched next week and two more launches in May. That is a lot of catching up for Bezos to do.

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