Amazon to open new internet satellite factory

Amazon.com Inc. will open a satellite manufacturing facility in Kirkland, Washington to support its multibillion-dollar Project Kuiper initiative.

Company announced plan on Thursday.

Project Kuiper is an initiative through which Amazon plans to build and place more than 3,200 internet satellites into orbit. According to the company, its constellation of satellites will provide Internet access to areas beyond the reach of terrestrial Internet infrastructure. Amazon has indicated that it plans to invest more than $10 billion in the Kuiper project over time.

The company’s upcoming satellite manufacturing facility in Kirkland, a city about 5 miles from its hometown of Seattle, will have 172,000 square feet. It will be able to produce up to four Project Kuiper satellites per day at full capacity. Amazon expects the facility to create more than 200 aerospace and manufacturing jobs.

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“Putting Project Kuiper satellites into space requires remarkable precision, expertise and a world-class team committed to our vision,” said Rajeev Badyal, Project Kuiper’s vice president of technology. “This new satellite manufacturing facility will significantly expand our production capacity as we approach launch and deployment, bringing us one step closer to fulfilling our mission to connect unserved and underserved communities around the world.”

Amazon in detail this week that it is using robots to automate some of the steps involved in the production of Project Kuiper satellites. The company maintains a satellite center in Redmond, Washington, which includes research laboratories as well as facilities optimized for the production of prototype hardware.

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Amazon is currently working on two prototype satellites, Kuipersat-1 and Kuipersat-2, which will be completed by the end of the year. The satellites will launch into space in early 2023 on a rocket developed by United Launch Alliance LLC. Amazon earlier this year reserved up to 92 launches from United Launch Alliance, Blue Origin LLC and Arianespace SA to support the Kuiper project.

The Amazon business unit that manages the development of Project Kuiper has more than 100 employees. Last year, Amazon expanded unit through the acquisition of Meta Platforms Inc. satellite internet group.

Amazon’s constellation of satellites will operate in low Earth orbit, a region of space a few hundred miles above the surface. Internet constellations historically operated at significantly higher altitudes. Placing satellites closer to Earth reduces launch costs while reducing the distance data must travel to and from the surface, which reduces latency for users.

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SpaceX Corp. also deploys its Starlink constellation of Internet satellites into low Earth orbit. OneWeb Ltd., a London-based company that competes with SpaceX and Amazon’s Project Kuiper division, takes the same approach.

Image: Unsplash

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