By Joey Roulette
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amazon is building a $120 million processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its planned thousands of Kuiper internet satellites, the company and state officials said on Friday.
The 100,000-square-foot building is part of roughly $10 billion that Amazon has pledged to invest in its Project Kuiper, a planned network of 3,200 low-Earth-orbit satellites designed to beam high-speed internet around the world.
Kuiper’s internet network, which will largely compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX’s Starlink, is expected to complement the power of Amazon’s web services.
The Florida facility will employ 50 people and will be a final stop for Amazon’s Kuiper satellites before they go into space, after being manufactured at the Kuiper Project’s main factory in Redmond, Washington. A ten-story room will allow satellites to be installed in the rocket’s payloads, the protective shell around the satellites that sits atop the rocket.
Amazon began construction of the site in January and expects to complete it by the end of 2024, with a goal of shipping its first batch of satellites to the region for processing in the second half of 2025, said Steve Metayer, Amazon’s vice president of production operations at Kuiper.
This target date will kick off a sprint for Amazon to deploy half of the network in orbit by 2026, as required by US regulators.
The company has won 77 heavy rocket launch contracts, potentially worth billions of dollars combined, mostly from the Boeing-Lockheed United Launch Alliance joint venture and Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin.
Amazon plans to launch its first prototype satellites into space by the end of the year, followed by launches of its first mass-produced satellites in 2024.
Testing of the service with businesses and governments will begin that year, the company said.
Anna Farrar, spokeswoman for Space Florida, an entity funded by the state to attract space companies to Florida, said Amazon was eligible to receive funds under a state grant for transportation-related projects, but “has not received any funding to date.”
(Reporting by Joey Roulette, editing by Deepa Babington)