Amazon needs partners if it's going to send its Project Kuiper internet satellites to space, and the tech giant now has them lined up. The company has reached deals with Arianespace, ULA and its close ally Blue Origin to offer as many as 83 launches for Project Kuiper over the next five years. The arrangements will let Amazon field the "majority" of its 3,236 satellites, and is supposedly the largest commercial launch deal to date.
ULA will provide the most launches, with 48 Atlas and Vulcan Centaur rockets ferrying satellites into orbit. Arianespace's Ariane 6 will deliver satellites across 18 launches. Blue Origin will provide just 12 launches aboard New Glenn, although there will be options for up to 15 additional flights.
There was no mention of who would provide the first launch, or a narrower timeframe for when that mission will occur. Amazon expects to deploy its first two prototype satellites by the end of this year.
It's no surprise that Amazon would land such a large deal, however. If Amazon is going to compete with SpaceX's Starlink, it needs guarantees that its satellite constellation will launch in a timely fashion — SpaceX has already deployed over 2,300 satellites to date, and will use as many as 30,000 to offer worldwide coverage. These deals let Amazon focus on getting Project Kuiper ready for service, and spare it the indignity of asking its main rival SpaceX for help with any launches.