An artist’s rendering of the Project Kuiper satellite processing facility in Florida.
Amazon will invest $120 million to build a satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the company prepares to launch the first satellite for its Project Kuiper Internet network, the tech giant announced Friday.
The facility will be built on the launch and landing facility where NASA once landed space shuttle missions. LLF is now leased and operated by Space Florida, which serves as the development arm of the state’s space economy.
“I’m thrilled that Amazon is the first major tenant to find. [at the LLF]Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello told CNBC. “It’s a testament to the fact that we see the entire state as an ecosystem-supporting place.”
Project Kuiper is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed Internet access anywhere in the world. The 100,000-square-foot processing facility will serve as a final step before the satellites reach orbit, preparing them for launch on rockets from United Launch Alliance and Blue Origin, which is separately owned by Jeff Bezos.
“We’re going to finish construction in late 2024. We’ll be processing our first production satellites through the facility in early 2025,” Steve Metayer, Amazon’s vice president of Caper production operations, told CNBC.
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Last year, Amazon announced the largest corporate rocket deal in industry history to launch its own satellites. It has booked 77 launches — deals that include options for more if needed — from various companies to rapidly deploy satellites to meet regulatory requirements.
An “ultra-compact” version of Project Kuiper
Amazon hopes to launch its first two Cooper prototype satellites “in the coming months” — but that depends on when the rocket that will carry the spacecraft is ready, the company said.
According to Metayer, Amazon still plans to fly the prototypes on the inaugural launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, which was recently delayed until the fourth quarter. While Amazon can “work with” the new Vulcan timeline, Metier said the company is “looking at all the options available to us to get the prototypes out in a timely manner.”
Kuiper prototypes have already carried passengers once before, moving from ABL’s RS1 rocket to Vulcan.
Project Cooper currently employs more than 1,400 people, Amazon said. The company’s primary Kuiper facilities are near Seattle – in the cities of Redmond and Kirkland. Amazon has other locations in San Diego, Austin, Texas, New York City and Washington, DC.
“We go where the talent is,” Metier said.