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Amazon secures rockets for broadband project

Over the next five years, three new heavy-lift rockets will put thousands of satellites into low earth orbit as part of Amazon’s Project Kuiper.

The project aims to provide broadband connections using a constellation of 3,236 satellites.
Rival Starlink is said to have more than 2,300 satellites in orbit already.

The rockets will be made by Arianespace, Blue Origin – which was founded by Amazon owner Jeff Bezos – and United Launch Alliance.

Amazon says Project Kuiper aims to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband to customers including households, businesses, government agencies, disaster relief operations, mobile operators, and other organisations “working in places without reliable internet connectivity”.

Like Elon Musk’s Starlink, users will connect to the internet via a terminal that communicates with the satellites. Amazon says its experience in shipping and making products like Echo and Kindle will be useful in producing and distributing these.

“Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world,” said Dave Limp, senior vice-president for Amazon Devices & Services, in a statement announcing the deal.

New rockets
Amazon plans 83 launches over the next five years, saying it constitutes “the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history”.

The firm plans two “prototype” missions later this year – but using a rocket made by ABL Space Systems, and not the three that will launch the bulk of the satellites.