Amazon builds US$120 million satellite processing hub

Amazon builds US$120 million satellite processing hub

For its thousands of planned Kuiper internet satellites.

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Amazon is building a US$120 million (S$160 million) processing facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida for its thousands of planned Kuiper internet satellites.

The 100,000 square-foot building is part of the roughly US$10 billion that Amazon has vowed to invest in its Kuiper project, a planned network of 3200 low Earth-orbiting satellites designed to beam broadband internet globally.

The Kuiper internet network, which will largely compete with Starlink from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is expected to complement Amazon’s web services powerhouse.

The Florida facility will employ 50 staff and be a last stop for Amazon's Kuiper satellites before they go to space after being manufactured at the Kuiper project's primary plant in Redmond, Washington.

A ten-story-tall room will allow the satellites to be fitted into rocket payload fairings, the protective shell around satellites that sit atop the rocket.

Amazon began construction of the site in January and plans to complete it by late 2024, with a target to ship the first batch of satellites to the facility for processing in the first half of 2025, said Steve Metayer, Amazon's vice president of Kuiper Production Operations.

Amazon aims to launch its first mass-produced satellites by early 2024, kicking off a sprint to deploy half of the network into orbit by 2026, as required by US regulators.

The company has bagged 77 heavy-lift rocket launch contracts, potentially worth billions of dollars combined, mostly from the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance and Jeff Bezos's space company Blue Origin.

Amazon plans to launch its first few prototype satellites into space by the end of the year, followed by launches of its first mass-produced satellites in 2024.

Testing the service with corporate and government customers will begin that year, the company said.

Anna Farrar, a spokeswoman for Space Florida, a state-funded entity to attract space businesses to Florida, said Amazon is eligible to receive funds under a state grant for transportation-related projects but "has not received any funding to date."

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