Amazon plans to launch its first pair of prototype internet satellites later next month using a different rocket than previously planned, a spokesman said on Monday, again changing the way the spacecraft fly to avoid delays in installing the rockets.

Spokesman James Watkins said the company will use a dedicated Atlas V rocket from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA) to launch the first two satellites of Amazon’s Kuiper program, which aims to Bringing Internet to the world from space.

The target release date is September 26, he said.

Amazon announced plans last year to launch the pair of satellites on the first flight of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket, moving them from a previously planned rocket by launch startup ABL Space to avoid delays in the development of the ABL rocket.

But the Vulcan delay prompted Amazon to change course yet again, as the e-commerce giant faces a 2026 regulatory deadline to deploy half of the 3,200 satellites planned for its Kuiper internet network.

When Amazon decided to use Vulcan, which was expected to launch in early 2023, it ran into issues in testing and is currently targeting its fourth-quarter 2023 launch date, a ULA spokesperson said.

enter the track race

To complement Amazon’s web services giant and compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s more established Starlink network, Amazon has vowed to spend $10 billion (Rs 8,270 crore) on satellite internet 83 launches in 2022 will deploy them in orbit, marking the largest commercial launch procurement ever.

Nine of those launches included the Atlas V rocket, ULA’s workhorse launcher, which has launched satellites into space, carried billion-dollar science missions for NASA, and carried out most U.S. national security missions for the Pentagon.

ULA spokeswoman Jessica Rye said ULA will stop selling the Atlas V in 2021 and has 19 more missions to fly before the rocket is retired. The company has imported bulk quantities of the rocket’s Russian-made RD-180 engines for the remainder of the mission and has no plans to order more.

It’s unclear whether the Atlas V, which is scheduled to launch in September, counts as one of the nine Amazon has previously purchased.

© Thomson Reuters 2023


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