Amazon Ditches ULA’s Vulcan and Opts for Atlas V Rockets for their Satellite Launch

By Sophia Francise

August 9, 2023

Amazon.com Inc, on Monday, confirmed that its first prototype internet satellites will launch on an Atlas V rocket which is a shift from the United Launch Alliance (ULA).

The launch, seat for September 26th, will deploy Amazon’s first two satellites for its Kuiper program, which aims to provide global internet coverage from space.

The first Vulcan rocket was slated to launch the first two prototype satellites for Amazon’s Kuiper constellation, which comprises over 3,200 broadband satellites to be deployed over the next few years.

Amazon delivered the two Kuiper test satellites to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the Vulcan launch earlier this year, but they have been sitting in storage since March, waiting for Vulcan to fly.

The decision was first disclosed in a ULA filing with the Federal Communications Commission. 1

Amazon’s Journey to Orbit

The launch slot became open after other missions on ULA’s launch schedule faced delays due to payload readiness. 

For instance, the first flight of astronauts on Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule has been delayed until next year. 

ULA can accommodate about one Atlas V launch per month at Cape Canaveral, but the company plans to double its launch capacity over the next few years, largely thanks to an investment from Amazon.

Last year, Amazon signed the largest commercial launch contract in history, snatching up rides on ULA’s new Vulcan rocket, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and Arianespace’s Ariane 6 launcher to cover Kuiper’s launch service needs for its 3,200 satellite

ULA’s Vulcan will be the first of Amazon’s crop of launch vehicles to fly, probably followed by the European-built Ariane 6 and then Blue Origin’s New Glenn.

References

  1. Stephen Clark, ‘Amazon shifts launch of its first Internet satellites to Atlas V rocket’, Ars Technica, 7 August 2023, https://arstechnica.com/space/2023/08/amazons-first-internet-satellites-will-launch-on-atlas-v-rocket-not-vulcan/[]
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