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Amazon to open Kuiper internet satellite factory

Rendering of a United Launch Alliance’ Atlas V rocket carrying Amazon satellites.

ULA/Amazon

Amazon said Thursday it will open a new plant in a Seattle suburb to build satellites for Project Kuiper.

Unveiled in 2019, Project Kuiper, is Amazon’s plan to build a network of 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit to provide high-speed broadband internet. Amazon notched a key milestone in 2020 when the Federal Communications Commission authorized the satellite internet system.

In order to meet its target of getting 3,000-plus satellites into orbit, Amazon will need to build one to three satellites “every single day, maybe even a little more than that,” Amazon devices chief Dave Limp said in an interview with The Washington Post on Thursday.

“We have to build the manufacturing capabilities that looks more like consumer electronics or automobiles and less like the traditional space industry,” Limp said.

Although Amazon has not said when the Kuiper launch campaign will begin, FCC rules require the company to deploy half of its planned satellites within six years – meaning about 1,600 in orbit by July 2026.

Amazon has said it plans to invest more than $10 billion into building Project Kuiper, and it already has a 219,000-square-foot research and development facility based in Redmond, Washington. The Redmond site has developed prototypes and assisted with commercial satellite production, “but to deliver on our vision for the project, we need to operate on a much larger scale,” Amazon said.

The new 172,000-square-foot factory will be located in the nearby city of Kirkland, Washington. It’s expected to create more than 200 jobs in the Puget Sound region, the company said.

The additional plant capacity will enable Amazon to enter the second phase of its manufacturing process, Limp said.

Since receiving FCC approval, Amazon has ramped up work on its first two prototype satellites, called KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2.

Amazon said in November 2021 that it hoped to launch those prototypes with ABL Space on its RS1 rocket in late 2022. But earlier this month, Amazon said United Launch Alliance would carry the satellites on their debut flight, delaying the launch to early next year.

Limp said Thursday that Amazon has started integration and final assembly of its first two prototype satellites, adding they “should be done by the end of Q4.”

— CNBC’s Michael Sheetz contributed to this report.

WATCH: How Amazon’s Project Kuiper is taking on SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet

How Amazon's Project Kuiper is taking on SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet

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