An artist’s rendering of the Kuiper Project satellite processing facility in Florida.
amazon The tech giant announced Friday that it will invest $120 million in a satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as it prepares to launch the first satellites for its Project Kuiper internet network.
The facility will be built within the Launch and Landing Facility, which used to be where NASA’s space shuttle missions land. The LLF is now leased and operated by Space Florida, the state’s space economic development arm.
“I’m delighted that Amazon is LLF’s first anchor tenant,” Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello told CNBC. “However, it’s a testament to the fact that we see the entire state as one ecosystem supporting space.”
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed Internet access anywhere in the world. The 100,000-square-foot processing facility will serve as one of the final steps before a satellite goes into orbit, preparing it for launch on a rocket owned by United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin, which is solely owned by Jeff Bezos.
“We will finish construction by the end of 2024. We will be processing our first production satellites through the facility in early 2025,” Steve Metayer, Amazon’s vice president of Kuiper production operations, told CNBC.
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Last year, Amazon announced the largest corporate rocket deal in the industry’s history to launch its satellites. It has booked 77 launches (with options for more if needed) with various companies to deploy satellites quickly enough to meet regulatory requirements.
An “ultra-compact” version of Project Kuiper
Amazon hopes to launch the first two Kuiper prototype satellites “within the next few months,” but that depends on when the rockets aboard the spacecraft are ready, the company said.
According to Metayer, Amazon still plans to launch a prototype on the first launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, which was recently pushed back to the fourth quarter. While Amazon “could fit in” with the new Vulcan timeline, Metayer said the company is “considering all available options to get a prototype out in time.”
The Kuiper prototype has transferred a ride before, from ABL’s RS1 rocket to the Vulcan.
Project Kuiper currently employs more than 1,400 people, Amazon said. The company’s main Kuiper plants are located in Redmond and Kirkland, near Seattle.Amazon has additional offices in San Diego, Austin, Texas, New York City and Washington, D.C.
“Wherever there’s talent, we go there,” Meiteyer said.