Amazon Ramps Up Internet Satellite Launches In Race Against SpaceX

Amazon.com is planning to launch thousands of small satellites capable of broadcasting high-speed internet service to Earth, putting it in direct rivalry with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and terrestrial-based internet-service providers.

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it had bought capacity on more than 80 rocket launches to transport its satellites into low-Earth orbit. The satellites will form the foundation of a constellation utilized by Amazon to provide high-speed, space-based internet.

“Project Kuiper will provide fast, affordable broadband to tens of millions of customers in unserved and underserved communities around the world,” said Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon Devices & Services, in a news release.

According to Amazon, the capacity was purchased from Blue Origin, United Launch Alliance–a Boeing (BA) and Lockheed Martin (LMT) joint venture–and Arianespace, a French company run by Safran (SAF. France), Airbus (AIR. France), and others.

Blue Origin, of course, was founded and is controlled by Jeff Bezos. The corporation has already clashed with SpaceX, opposing the company’s awarding of a NASA contract as well as SpaceX’s ambitions to deploy satellites for Starlink, its space-based broadband service.

The rivalry between Bezos and Musk appears to extend beyond space. Bezos owns the Washington Post, the target of shots by Musk in the recent past. Musk currently owns around 9% of Twitter (TWTR), his first foray into a well-established media company.

Musk previously stated that Starlink has 250,000 customers, but that was before he offered Ukraine with free base stations to aid the country in its war against Russia.

According to Starlink’s website, speeds can reach 200 megabits per second. Some earth-based systems can achieve 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second. Cellphone-based 5G service can reach speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.

Amazon has not specified the speed of its service. “Affordability is a key principle for our team,” a spokesperson for Amazon said. “Amazon has a long-standing commitment to low prices…..we’re doing the same with Project Kuiper.”

SpaceX develops and launches its own satellites into space, which distinguishes Starlink from a prospective Amazon internet service. Blue Origin, a company that is not owned by Amazon, does not produce satellites.

SpaceX rockets are used to launch Starlink satellites. SpaceX eventually intends to launch Starlink satellites on its Starship spacecraft.

SpaceX pioneered reusable rockets, however only the first stage of the rocket is now reused. The stage that transports goods the last few miles into space is not reused. The rockets used by ULA and Arianespace are not yet reusable.

Because SpaceX is privately held, the Amazon news has no effect on the company’s publicly traded stock.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s immediate impacts appear to be minor. Amazon is a trillion-dollar firm, and it is new to the space industry, so investors are unlikely to trade its stock based on space data points anytime soon. Amazon plans to launch satellites during the next five years.

Investors can, however, begin to assess the potential of space-based internet. In private markets, SpaceX is reported to be worth around $100 billion. The majority of that is most likely for the internet business’s potential. If everything goes as planned, Amazon’s ambitions for space-based internet could result in a slight increase in stock price.

SpaceX, on the other hand, has a significant advantage. Within 18 months, they hope to have 4,200 satellites operating. According to Musk, this equates to two-thirds of all operational satellites orbiting the Earth.

In early trade Tuesday, Amazon shares was down 1.6 percent. The S&P 500 had dropped around 0.4 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average remained unchanged.

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