Amazon founder Jeff Bezos tries to stay in the space race

Launch of a New Shepard space vehicle, from Blue Origin, in Van Horn, Texas, on March 31.

Don’t get too far behind in the race for the stars. Faced with the new undisputed leader of the space industry, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos hopes to show on Tuesday, April 5, that he is not quite outdated. The Amazon group has pre-purchased 83 rocket launches to deploy within five years the future Kuiper constellation of 3,236 satellites, intended to connect disadvantaged areas of the planet to the Internet. That is “the largest commercial launch vehicle acquisition in history”, reports the press release. The space company Blue Origin is one of the three selected providers, as is the European Arianespace. It is also to provide the engine for one of the United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) third participant’s launchers, the Vulcan Centaur.

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Kuiper didn’t give a date for the launches, but it will finally send its first two test satellites by the end of 2022, and half of its constellation should be in orbit by July 2026, according to US authorities’ approval, in 2020. “Kuiper will provide fast and affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in uncovered or poorly covered areas around the world,” Amazon assures in its press release. The project also targets companies in the maritime or air transport, energy, agriculture, etc. sectors.

“Good progress”

Jeff Bezos’ company is counting on “the Amazon Web Services network and infrastructure”, its cloud data hosting subsidiary, cloud computing. One of its customers, US telephone operator Verizon, has just signed an agreement with Kuiper to cover white areas in the United States. The Amazon service has also opened an office in France. However, the activity will not start for years to come, as Starlink, the constellation Elon Musk, has already launched 2,300 satellites and has 250,000 customers, as far as Ukraine, where the service was presented as a way to access the Internet during the war. †

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Jeff Bezos’ space company, Blue Origin, is currently best known for sending a few tourists—including himself—to the edge of Earth’s orbit. an option for fifteen more. Until now, this reusable launch vehicle had only three customers, including France’s Eutelsat. However, New Glenn still doesn’t have a date for its maiden flight: initially scheduled for 2020, then postponed to a year ago “last quarter of 2022”, this will not take place this year. When contacted, Blue Origin wants to be reassuring and ensures that “good progress”.

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