Amazon unveils plans for $120 million satellite computing facility for its Internet constellation - Spaceflight Now

Amazon unveils plans for $120 million satellite computing facility for its Internet constellation – Spaceflight Now

A rendering of Amazon’s proposed satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The 100,000-square-foot facility will be used to prepare satellites for its Internet constellation Project Kuiper for launch aboard rockets from ULA and Blue Origin.

On Friday, online retail giant amazon will join members of Space Florida to reveal its plans for a 100,000-square-foot satellite processing facility located at Space Floridas Launch and Landing Facility (LLF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Amazon hopes to rival satellite internet companies like SpaceX in the coming years with its next Project Kuiper constellation. The goal is to launch and operate more than 3,200 low-Earth orbit satellites as part of a system that includes customer terminals and a ground network, powered by Amazon Web Services.

On Friday, the company announced a critical step toward that goal with a $120 million investment in the Florida end of its supply chain.

We have an ambitious plan to begin Project Kuiper full-scale production rollouts and early customer pilots next year, and this new facility will play a critical role in helping us meet that timeline, said Steve Metayer, vice president of manufacturing operations at Kuiper, in a statement.

We are proud to partner with Space Florida to support the growing space industry in Florida and elsewhere in the United States and look forward to adding more talent to our skilled operations and manufacturing team. These employees will play an important role in our mission to connect tens of millions of customers around the world.

Amazon first announced its plans to use 3,236 satellites to deliver broadband Internet in 2019. The company said its satellites will begin production later this year at its facility in Kirkland, Washington.

The new site in Florida is designed to receive those shipments of satellites, conduct final preparations before launches, connect the satellites to Beyond Gravity’s custom dispensers, and integrate the loaded dispensers with launch vehicles.

Beyond Gravity, the company formerly known as Ruag Space, manufactures the payload fairings for United Launch Alliances’ (ULA) Vulcan Centaur rocket and Ariane 6 rocket from France-based Arianespaces. Both companies were selected by Amazon in April 2022, along with Blue Origin and its New Glenn Rocket, to launch the Project Kuiper constellation.

The five-year launch contracts include 83 launches, awarding 18 to Arianespace, 12-15 to Blue Origin and 38 to ULA on Vulcan. This adds to the nine launches Amazon has awarded ULA aboard its Atlas V rocket in 2021.

Initially, a pair of prototype satellites was to be launched aboard ABL Space Systems’ RS1 rocket, but they have been moved to become part of the payload set for Vulcan’s maiden launch, now expected no earlier than Q4 2023.

Because the launch was at one point slated for late 2023 but has since been delayed, Spaceflight Now asked Amazon if those prototypes will continue to fly aboard the first Vulcan or if plans have changed.

A spokesperson said in a statement that they are evaluating our options but said they will currently stick to the Vulcan mission as soon as ULA is ready to launch.

The spokesman added that Vulcan’s delays have no impact on their first production satellites.

Our prototype mission will provide valuable data for the team, but we’ve also completed extensive laboratory and field tests, and our operating model allows us to continually incorporate new learnings over time, an Amazon spokesperson told Spaceflight Now. We are already moving forward with satellite production and deployment plans in parallel with the mission and remain on track to begin production launches and first customer pilot projects next year.

From Project Comet to Project Kuiper

Plans for Amazon’s new facility at LLF, formerly NASA’s Shuttle Landing Facility, began as an internal discussion two years ago at Space Florida, an entity designed to help promote Florida statewide business in the space industry.

It was first presented to the board of directors under the working title of Project Comet on January 26, 2022. At the time, Amazon management said it planned to invest $120 million.

Amazon said it plans to create about 50 jobs by 2025 at an annual salary of $120,000. The median household income in Brevard County, where KSC is located along the Atlantic coast, is $63,632, according to US Census data.

This was unanimously approved by the board. An approval to complete negotiations with Amazon was approved by the Space Florida board during a follow-up meeting on July 28, 2022.

Amazon is also seeking matching grant funds from the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) Spaceport Improvement Program in the amount of $3.2 million for a Space Commerce Way connector, according to the January 26, 2023 board minutes.

The addition of Amazon’s Project Kuiper satellite payload processing facility to the region’s growing industrial capacity in commercial space is a testament to the power to build a statewide ecosystem that supports companies across the entire aerospace supply chain, said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, in a statement. We couldn’t be more thrilled that Project Kuiper selected Space Floridas Launch and Landing Facility for this facility and we look forward to being a part of their global connectivity mission.

Amazon will discuss its plans in more detail during an event on Friday. This article will be updated.

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