Amazon Pumps $120 Million into Satellite Processing Facility for Project Kuiper

Amazon has disclosed plans to sink $120 million into the construction of a satellite processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center, based at Cape Canaveral in Florida. This significant investment is geared towards propelling the company’s ambitious Project Kuiper, a constellation of internet-relaying satellites.

Facility Construction and Features

The planned facility, which construction is already underway, is set to reside at Space Florida’s Launch and Landing Facility. Upon completion, the facility is expected to host 50 employees and stretch across 100,000 square feet. A prominent feature of the facility is a 100-foot-tall clean room, where satellite hardware will be loaded into specialized dispensers designed by Beyond Gravity, before being transported into low earth orbit (LEO). By 2025, the facility is projected to support up to three simultaneous launch campaigns per month. The positioning of the new facility next to the former Space Shuttle landing strip, taken over by Space Florida in 2013, will play a crucial role in its operation.

The Future of Project Kuiper

Under the Project Kuiper initiative, Amazon has set a target to launch a total of 3,200 satellites into LEO. The main goal is to provide broadband internet to under-served subscribers around the world, rivaling Elon Musk’s Starlink constellation. To begin, Amazon intends to launch two prototype satellites in the next few months.

Satellite Production and Launches

As for satellite production, Amazon’s Kirkland, Washington facility is set to handle the manufacturing process. Upon completion, the satellites will be transported to the new Florida facility for flight preparation. This includes attaching them to the separation system built by Beyond Gravity, followed by encapsulation into the fairings of the Atlas V, Vulcan Centaur, and the New Glenn rockets. Launch contracts have already been secured, including 38 on Vulcan Centaur, 18 on Ariane 6, 12 on New Glenn, and 9 on Atlas V. The initial two test satellites are scheduled for a Vulcan Centaur launch. However, due to ongoing structural adjustments to the Centaur V upper stage, Amazon could potentially switch the demonstration launch to an already purchased Atlas V.

Addressing Potential Delays

Amazon’s satellite production is set to start later this year, with the Florida processing facility set to be ready early next year. This timeline, however, is subject to rocket-related delays, as experienced earlier this year with the Vulcan Centaur launch.

Terrestrial Infrastructure and User Terminals

Amazon has also begun the development of terrestrial infrastructure to support the satellite service. The company unveiled three antennas in March, which are expected to tap into the satellite network once the satellites are in orbit. The antennas are anticipated to deliver speeds ranging between 100Mb/s and 1Gb/s, depending on the terminal size. Amazon also revealed their user terminals for Kuiper with options ranging from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second. The terminals are priced between $100 and $400, but the fastest option did not have a disclosed price.

Moving Forward

Despite potential delays and hurdles, Amazon remains optimistic that the first production launches and trials will commence in 2024. Amazon’s efforts to maintain space over our heads free of debris received a green light from the FCC in February, paving the way for deployments to begin. Learn more about Project Kuiper by visiting the official Amazon webpage here.