Understand all about Kuiper, the project to put thousands of satellites into orbit

The online sales company Amazon Tuesday morning formalized “the signing of agreements with” Ariane spaceBlue origin and United Launch Alliance (ULA) for providing launch services” of its satellites† What are we talking about ? How will it go? Is this good news? 20 minutes explains everything to you.

What is Amazon’s plan?

Amazon wants to launch a constellation of satellites into low Earth orbit. The Kuiper project plans to send a total of 3,236 satellites to internet broadband, especially in areas where connectivity is limited or non-existent.

The online sales juggernaut is not alone in wanting to conquer space: the Kuiper project competes directly with star link from SpaceX that plans to launch 42,000 mini satellites or even one web less ambitious, with a target of 648. The end of the white zone market attracts many actorsmany of whom are new of space

How will it go?

The launches are split between three companies: Blue Origin, founded by Jeff Bezos (like Amazon) got 37 launches, including 15 as options for its giant New Glenn launch vehicle, the joint venture of Boeing and ockheed Martin ULA 38 and the European Arianespace 18.

These launches will be performed by Ariane 6, the launcher to be replaced Ariadne 5 This year. The amounts, believed to be staggering, of these contracts were not disclosed, although Amazon claimed to have already invested “more than ten billion dollars” in the project. According to Arianespace’s executive chairman, Stéphane Israel, the European company will conduct six launches per year for three years. Each Ariane 6 will launch between 35 and 40 satellites from the Kuiper project.

By ordering his launches from three different companies, Bezos hopes to catch up with rival project Starlink, whose satellites began launches with the Falcon 9 rocket nearly three years ago. In addition, Amazon is working on a tight schedule. To maintain the permit granted by the FCC (US Federal Communications Commission), the Kuiper project must deploy half of its planned satellites by 2026 and the others by 2029.

What were the reactions?

For Arianespace, signing these contracts is a godsend. Amazon’s contract for 18 satellite launches by Ariane 6 is “very good news,” says the president of the French space agency (CNES ), Philippe Baptiste: “This is very good news for the Europe of the spatial, which shows that the right choices have been made. We have a launcher that will make its first flight in a short time and that is competitive in the market, for me this is the beginning of Europe’s great return to space on launchers. The contract nearly triples the deficit of Ariane 6, who was 11 shots so far. This is “an exceptional opportunity for Ariane 6”, says President Stéphane Israel enthusiastically.

It’s all the more positive that the war in Ukraine has put the Guyana Space Center in trouble. In response to European sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, Moscow suspended the launches of its soyuz launcherfrom Guyana, depriving the territory of significant economic benefits. However, this space race still worries many observers, especially researchers.