Artist’s impression of the Project Kuiper satellite processing facility in Florida.
Amazon will invest $120 million to build a satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as the company prepares to launch the first satellites of its Project Kuiper internet network, the tech giant announced Friday.
The facility will be built at the Launch and Landing Facility that was once where NASA landed Space Shuttle missions. The LLF is now leased and operated by Space Florida, which serves as the development arm of the state’s space economy.
“I’m thrilled that Amazon is the first major tenant to move into (the LLF),” Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida, told CNBC. “It speaks to the fact, however, that we view the entire state as an 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 be one of the last steps before the satellites reach orbit, preparing them for launches on rockets from the United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos.
“We will complete construction at the end of 2024. We will process our first production satellites at this facility in early 2025,” Steve Metayer, vice president of production operations for Kuiper at Amazon, told CNBC.
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Last year, Amazon announced the biggest corporate rocket contract in industry history to launch its satellites. It booked 77 launches — deals that included additional options when needed — with various companies to deploy the satellites quickly enough to meet regulatory requirements.
The “ultra-compact” version of the Project Kuiper
Amazon hopes to launch its first two prototype Kuiper satellites “in the coming months”, the company said – but that depends on when the rocket on which the spacecraft would ride is ready.
According to Metayer, Amazon still plans to fly the prototypes on ULA’s inaugural Vulcan rocket launch, which was recently delayed to the fourth quarter. Although Amazon “can work with” the new Vulcan timeline, Metayer said the company is “looking at all options available to us to get the prototypes in a timely manner.”
Kuiper’s prototypes have moved rides once before, going from ABL’s RS1 rocket to Vulcan.
Project Kuiper currently employs more than 1,400 people, Amazon said. The company’s main Kuiper facilities are near Seattle in the cities of Redmond and Kirkland. Amazon has other locations in San Diego, Austin, Texas, New York, and Washington, DC
“We go where the talent is,” Metayer said.