Amazon’s Starlink rival Project Kuiper delayed again

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Amazon has once again delayed the launch of its first production satellites for Project Kuiper, the company’s ambitious rival to SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet constellation.

In a blog post, Amazon revealed that it is preparing to ship the first completed production satellites to launch sites “this summer.” However, the actual launch is not expected to occur until October at the earliest.

“We’re targeting our first full-scale Kuiper mission for Q4 aboard an Atlas V rocket from ULA (United Launch Alliance),” the company stated.

This delay has ripple effects on Amazon’s plans for Project Kuiper. The company had originally intended to begin beta trials with commercial customers later this year. However, these plans have now been pushed back to early 2025.

Despite the setback, Amazon remains optimistic about its progress and future plans. “We will continue to increase our rates of satellite production and deployment heading into 2025, and we remain on track to begin offering service to customers next year,” the company affirmed.

While Amazon did not provide specific reasons for the delay, industry observers speculate that issues with launch partners may be a contributing factor.

In 2022, Amazon announced partnerships with United Launch Alliance, Arianespace, and Blue Origin to deploy the majority of Kuiper’s 3,236-satellite constellation. However, all three companies have faced challenges in developing and launching their next-generation rockets.

For the initial launch of Kuiper’s production satellites, Amazon plans to utilise United Launch Alliance’s older Atlas V rockets. However, the company is working against a tight deadline set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Amazon is required to launch half of its planned Kuiper constellation by July 2026, although there is a possibility that the company could request an extension.

In an effort to highlight positive developments, Amazon used Thursday’s blog post to showcase its progress in satellite manufacturing.

The company has established a production facility in Kirkland, Washington, which opened in April 2024. This 172,000-square-foot factory serves as the manufacturing hub for the Kuiper constellation and is designed to support the project’s unique needs.

Steve Metayer, Project Kuiper’s VP of Production Operations, said: “Building advanced communications satellites at this scale is incredibly complex, and we want to ensure every Kuiper spacecraft meets our standards for performance, reliability, and safety.”

“The progress from the team is so impressive, and we now have the foundational pieces in place to ramp production ahead of a full-scale deployment.”

The Kirkland facility boasts impressive capabilities, with Amazon claiming it will be able to produce up to five satellites per day at peak capacity. The company has also developed innovative testing processes that have reduced the test time for individual satellites from months to days.

As part of its commitment to the local community, Amazon has already hired more than 120 employees to operate the factory, with plans to create a total of 200 high-skilled manufacturing jobs. The company has also partnered with the Lake Washington Institute of Technology to develop a satellite manufacturing certification program, aiming to cultivate a local talent pipeline.

“Manufacturing satellites locally contributes significantly to our city’s economic growth and continues to open new doors of opportunity for those who call Kirkland home. We are grateful for Amazon’s partnership and focus on upskilling our workforce,” said Kirkland Mayor Kelli Curtis.

While the latest delay will be disappointing for those eagerly awaiting Project Kuiper’s launch, it underscores the complex nature of developing and deploying large-scale satellite constellations.

(Image Credit: Amazon)

See also: Bringing SpaceX to the wild: Is Starlink Mini right for backpackers?

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