Rendering of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying Amazon satellites.
Amazon announced Thursday that it will open a new factory in a suburb of Seattle to build satellites for Project Kuiper.
Unveiled in 2019, Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to deliver high-speed broadband internet. Amazon hit a key milestone in 2020 when the Federal Communications Commission licensed the satellite internet system.
In order to meet its goal of putting more than 3,000 satellites into orbit, Amazon will need to build one to three satellites “every day, maybe even a little more than that,” Amazon’s chief of devices Dave Limp said. , in an interview with The Washington. Post Thursday.
“We need to build manufacturing capabilities that are more like consumer electronics or automobiles and less like traditional space industry,” Limp said.
Although Amazon hasn’t said when Kuiper’s launch campaign will begin, FCC rules require the company to deploy half of its planned satellites within six years, or about 1,600 in orbit by July. 2026.
Amazon said it plans to invest more than $10 billion to build Project Kuiper, and it already has a 219,000 square foot research and development facility based in Redmond, Washington. The Redmond site has developed prototypes and helped produce commercial satellites, “but to realize our vision for the project, we need to operate on a much larger scale,” Amazon said.
The new 172,000 square foot factory will be located in nearby Kirkland, Washington. It is expected to create more than 200 jobs in the Puget Sound area, the company said.
The additional plant capacity will allow Amazon to enter the second phase of its manufacturing process, Limp said.
Since receiving FCC approval, Amazon has ramped up work on its first two prototype satellites, called KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2.
Amazon said in November 2021 it hoped to launch these prototypes with ABL Space on its RS1 rocket in late 2022. But earlier this month Amazon said United Launch Alliance would carry the satellites on their first flight, delaying the launch early next year.
Limp said Thursday that Amazon has begun integration and final assembly of its first two satellite prototypes, adding that they “should be complete by the end of the fourth quarter.”
– CNBC’s Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.
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