Amazon Signs with Arianespace and Others

The four launchers selected by Amazon for its Kruiper constellation (from left to right): Vulcan and Atlas V of United Launch Alliance (38 and 9 flights respectively), Ariane 6 of Arianespace (18 flights) and New Glenn of Blue Origin (12 flights and 15 options).

The four launchers selected by Amazon for its Kruiper constellation (from left to right): Vulcan and Atlas V of United Launch Alliance (38 and 9 flights respectively), Ariane 6 of Arianespace (18 flights) and New Glenn of Blue Origin (12 flights and 15 options). Credit: Cité de l’espace/ULA/Arianespace/Blue Origin

From “the contract of the century” (Les Échos( to “the biggest commercial launch agreement ever produced” (Space News), there were not enough superlatives to describe Amazon’s announcement of 5 April 2022. Indeed it was quite spectacular. The online sales giant founded by American Jeff Bezos has specified the launch companies it had chosen to put most of the 3236 satellites in its Kruiper constellation into orbit, designed to bring web connectivity on the ground throughout the world with a dedicated terminal.

On the European side, Arianespace thus obtained 18 launch contracts with Ariane 6 which will be making its inaugural flight from the Guyana Space Centre (GSC) before the end of the year. In the United States the United Launch Alliance firm (ULA) which brings Boeing and Lockheed Martin together will carry out 38 flights of its future Vulcan launcher. It should be noted in passing that Blue Origin (which is owned by Jeff Bezos) will provide the BE-4 thrusters for Vulcan. These 38 flights are in addition to 9 already concluded with ULA with its current Atlas V launcher. The Blue Origin company is (logically) not forgotten by receiving 12 launch contracts plus 15 options via its New Glenn which has not yet been inaugurated (the impressive ground facilities, however, have already been built in Florida).

With Kuiper, Amazon is positioning itself on a market similar to those of the constellations of SpaceX’s Starlink and OneWeb. It will be noted that the latter has turned to its competitor SpaceX to send up new satellites using several Falcon 9s. Indeed, because of the war in Ukraine and the sanctions which followed, the Russian agency Roscosmos has cancelled one launch as well as the others planned and contracted with OneWeb.
It is estimated that Amazon will devote $10 billion to its Kruiper constellation (launches as well as design and manufacture of satellites and ground facilities amongst other things).