Amazon Unveils ‘Project Kuiper’ Plan Amid Space Race With Elon Musk

by Chris Haney
(Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The race to space between billionaires Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk continues as Amazon recently announced plans to launch new internet satellites into orbit. Bezos and Amazon’s plans for the satellites are in direct competition with Musk and SpaceX’s “Starlink” service.

In fact, SpaceX successfully launched a new round of Starlink internet satellites last month on March 9. That marks the company’s 10th launch in 10 weeks, and Amazon is gearing up to do the same. Amazon has partnered with three other companies to oversee upwards of 83 satellite launches over a five-year span. The internet initiative is called “Project Kuiper,” and aims to offer fast, inexpensive internet access to underserved communities around the globe.

What You Need To Know

  • Amazon revealed plans to launch dozens of internet satellites into orbit over a five-year span.
  • The company aims to provide fast, low-cost internet access to underserved communities.
  • “Project Kuiper” is in direct competition with Elon Musk and SpaceX’s “Starlink” program.
  • Amazon is partnering with three other companies to launch the internet satellites.

Amazon Currently Behind In the Race to Provide Affordable Internet

Project Kuiper’s mission is essentially the same as Starlink’s, as the two companies look to provide affordable internet access. In their announcement, Amazon shared further details about their plans for the satellite launches.

Of the 83 launches, United Launch Alliance – a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing – will be responsible for 38. French firm Arianespace will conduct 18 launches, and Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin will be responsible for at least 12 satellite launches. Blue Origin has the option to launch the other 15 satellites, but that could change. Amazon’s senior vice president of devices and services Dave Limp spoke about the new venture in a recent statement.

“These launch agreements reflect our incredible commitment and belief in Project Kuiper. And we’re proud to be working with such an impressive lineup of partners to deliver on our mission,” Limp shared.

Amazon said that the company’s partnerships will allow Project Kuiper to “deploy the majority of its 3,236-satellite constellation” into orbit. Additionally, the company called the plans the “largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history.”

As of now though, Project Kuiper doesn’t have any active satellites online, unlike SpaceX’s Starlink program. Elon Musk and his company have pressed ahead and have a clear lead in the race to provide affordable internet to the masses. Starlink has already launched more than 1,900 satellites into orbit to support its more than 250,000 global subscribers. Further, the service earned international attention last month after Musk launched the service in Ukraine in an effort to support its citizens as Russia continues its invasion of the country.

Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos Rivalry Continues Into Space

In 2020, the Federal Communications Commission approved Amazon’s internet satellite plans. Therefore Project Kuiper moved forward in hopes of helping various customers across the world. The company envisions their service aiding individuals as well as hospitals, schools, and government agencies.

The newest space ventures are another major investment out of both of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk’s own pockets. Each billionaire has bankrolled their own private space companies as they push to make civilian flights to space the norm. Both SpaceX and Blue Origin have already launched successful low orbit flights with civilians on board. Bezos’ Blue Origin completed its fourth crewed mission last week on March 31. In fact, Jeff Bezos himself flew on Blue Origin’s first passenger mission in July 2021.

The two famous business magnates have competed in the same overlapping industries multiple times over the years. They’ve also publicly addressed each other on social media and in the press over their competing interests. Last year, their public barbs spilled over into the courtroom when Blue Origin lost a federal lawsuit against NASA. Blue Origin accused NASA of improperly giving a lunar lander contract to SpaceX. However, in March, NASA said it would reopen bidding on the lunar lander contract for a second company, which leaves the door open for Blue Origin to re-enter the conversation.