TAMPA, Fla. — Amazon announced plans July 21 to build a satellite processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida, as it prepares to start launching 3,200 commercial Project Kuiper broadband satellites next year.

The 31,000-square-meter facility Amazon expects to complete in 2024 at Kennedy’s runway-equipped Launch and Landing Facility will perform final preparations of Project Kuiper satellites shipped in from out of state for launch aboard Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance rockets.

Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, together with Europe’s Arianespace, are expected to perform up to 92 Project Kuiper launches under a blockbuster launch deal announced in early 2022.

Amazon said its production facilities in Kirkland, Washington, are on track to start churning out satellites by the end of the year to provide early low Earth orbit services to undisclosed enterprise customers in 2024. 

The company does not expect the integration facility to be operational before early 2025, indicating plans for a major ramp-up over the following 18 months in a race to meet regulatory deadlines.

Amazon has to deploy half its constellation — or 1,618 satellites — by July 2026 under deployment rules tied to its Federal Communications Commission license, and the rest by July 2029.

A Project Kuiper spokesperson declined to detail its deployment plan but said it is on course to meet the 2026 deadline, and will use a third-party payload processing facility until its own is fully commissioned.

Avoiding delays

Project Kuiper has spent billions of dollars to get firm commitments for 77 heavy-lift launch vehicles, with the majority set to fly out of Florida to benefit from the integration facility.

But apart from nine ULA Atlas 5 vehicles, these missions rely on rockets that have yet to enter service amid development delays: ULA’s Vulcan Centaur, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and Ariane 6 from Arianespace.

Amazon had initially aimed to launch its first two prototype satellites by the fourth quarter of 2022 with rocket developer ABL Space Systems, before switching to a Vulcan mission now slated for the fourth quarter of this year following a series of delays. 

While Project Kuiper is evaluating options, the spokesperson said it still plans to launch the prototypes on Vulcan’s debut.

Amazon said in a news release that it is investing $120 million to build its Florida satellite processing facility, part of the more than $10 billion it has committed to Project Kuiper. The company is also applying for a spaceport grant from the Florida Department of Transportation to support the construction.

Up to 50 new jobs would be created on the Space Coast as part of the investment, according to Amazon, joining its more than 1,400 Project Kuiper employees across the United States — primarily in Washington.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...