Amazon says building massive processing facility in Florida for Project Kuiper broadband satellites as it races to catch up to SpaceX
Amazon has said it is building a $120 million (£93m) facility in Florida to act as a final staging post for its Project Kuiper internet satellites before they launch into orbit, as the company pushes ahead with its planned satellite-based broadband network.
The 100,000-square-foot building is to be located at a facility operated by Space Florida, a state-funded entity set up to attract space businesses, located at the Kennedy Space Centre, from which NASA once launched Space Shuttle missions.
It features a 100-foot-tall bay where Amazon plans to fit the satellites into rocket payload farings prior to launch atop rockets from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin.
Amazon head of Kuiper production operations Steve Metayer said work on the building was expected to finish toward the end of 2024, with satellite processing beginning in early 2025.
Project Kuiper plans to use 3,200 low-Earth orbit satellites to provide broadband across the globe and competes with SpaceX’s Starlink and other planned services.
Amazon showed customer terminals earlier this year but was forced to delay the launch of its first satellite prototypes into space after difficulties with ULA’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket.
With the prototype launch currently scheduled for late 2023, Amazon is planning to begin mass production of the Kuiper satellites at its Kirkland, Washington facility by the end of this year.
It said it expects launches of production satellites and early trials with enterprise customers in 2024.
“We have an ambitious plan to begin Project Kuiper’s full-scale production launches and early customer pilots next year, and this new facility will play a critical role in helping us deliver on that timeline,” said Metayer.
The company faces a regulatory deadline to launch half of its network into orbit by 2026.
SpaceX – which has also become a major player in satellite launches – has already deployed more than 4,000 satellites and is providing broadband service to more than 1.5 million people around the world.