Amazon’s first Project Kuiper network satellites will be launched by Atlas V rockets


Amazon Atlas V

Amazon Atlas V

SpaceX is working hard to build the Starlink low-orbit satellite network system. If anyone is its biggest potential competitor, it must be Amazon’s Project Kuiper. Now Project Kuiper has taken a big step forward,Purchased 9 Atlas V rockets from ULATo startThe final number will be as high as 3,226 satellitesLaunch plan. Atlas V is an extremely reliable rocket. It has been launched more than 80 times since 2002, and except for the only partial success in 2007 (satellites rely on their own power to make up for the lack of rockets, so it is not a complete failure). Maintain a 100% success rate. However, Atlas V is a discarded rocket after all, and there is a huge gap in cost from the partially recycled Falcon 9, which also means that the cost of Amazon’s satellite group construction will be considerably greater than that of Starlink. How to reflect on service pricing will be a focus of attention.

Of course, the doubt behind the use of Atlas V rockets is where are the other options? It is easy to understand not to use Falcon 9. After all, there is no reason to fund competitors, but let alone ULA itself is developing a next-generation rocket called Vulcan, as far as “corporate relations” is concerned, Amazon seems to choose Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. Is that right? In fact, in accordance with the US FCC’s regulations on the right to use the wireless frequency bands of communication satellite companies, it is necessary to launch half of the scheduled satellites within a certain number of years, or even all the satellites, otherwise the exclusive rights of the frequency band will be withdrawn to avoid the company from occupying the frequency. In the case of Project Kuiper, the FCC has set a deadline of half the launch in 2026 (that is, about 1,600), and a full set of satellites will be launched before the middle of 2029. The potential significance of Amazon’s choice of Atlas V is that the development progress of Vulcan and New Glenn is too slow to keep up with the launch of 1,600 pieces before 2026. Therefore, it can only take second place and look for the more expensive Atlas V first.

In the press release, Amazon did not provide a scheduled launch schedule, but the more important key unknown information may be how many satellites can be carried in one launch-Falcon 9 can carry 60 satellites to orbit at one time, since the end of 2019 After 23 intensive launches so far, there are almost 1,400 satellites in orbit. Assuming that Project Kuiper was carried by Atlas V in the same number, the 9 rockets would only be enough for about 1/3 of the initial target, and there is still a long way to go.