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 satellites for its Project Kuiper internet network, the tech giant announced Friday.
The facility will be built at the Launch and Landing Facility that was once where NASA landed Space Shuttle missions. The LLF is now leased and operated by Space Florida, which serves as the state’s space economy development arm.
“I am thrilled that Amazon is the first major tenant to locate [at the LLF],” Frank DiBello, CEO of Space Florida, told CNBC. “It’s a testament to the fact, though, that we view the whole state as an ecosystem supporting space.”
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 one of the final steps before the satellites reach orbit, preparing them for launches on the rockets of the United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos’ separately owned Blue Origin.
“We’re going to finish construction at the end of 2024. We’ll be processing our first production satellites through this facility in early 2025,” Steve Metayer, Amazon’s vice president of Kuiper production operations, told CNBC.
Last year, Amazon announced the biggest corporate rocket deal in the industry’s history to launch its satellites. It has booked 77 launches – deals that included options for more when needed – from a variety of companies to deploy the satellites fast enough to meet regulatory requirements.
The “ultra-compact” version of the Project Kuiper
Amazon hopes to launch its first two Kuiper prototype satellites “in the coming months,” the company said – but that depends on when the rocket that the spacecraft would ride on becomes ready.
According to Metayer, Amazon still plans to fly the prototypes on the inaugural launch of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, which was recently delayed to the fourth quarter. Although Amazon “can work with” the new Vulcan timeline, Metayer said the company is “looking at all options available to us to get the prototypes up in a timely manner.”
The Kuiper prototypes have already moved rides once before, shifting from ABL’s RS1 rocket over to Vulcan.
Project Kuiper currently employs more than 1,400 people, Amazon said. The company’s main 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, D.C.
“We go where the talent is,” Metayer said.