The only thing launched for Amazon's Project Kuiper is a lawsuit
Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk... not the bestest of buddies?
Updated An Amazon shareholder has filed a lawsuit on the company alleging it didn't do its due diligence when it awarded launch contracts for the company's Project Kuiper satellite constellation to Blue Origin and others.
At the heart of the case, unsealed last week after being filed under seal on August 23 in the Court of Chancery in the State of Delaware, is its launch provider selection.
In this instance, the plaintiff, a pension fund and Amazon shareholder, has taken exception to the omission of SpaceX from the list of providers. The complaint lists Blue Origin, founded by Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and United Launch Alliance (ULA) as rides for the Project Kuiper satellites. Arianespace is also listed, as well as a fourth player not named in the suit.
However, most definitely absent is SpaceX and its Falcon 9, which has demonstrated a robust ability to launch payloads into orbit.
Amazon booked its rockets in 2022, declaring the deal with the providers "the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history." However, it did not disclose when the launches would take place, and delays in the delivery of engines from Blue Origin have resulted in schedules for ULA's Vulcan Centaur – its replacement for the workhorse Atlas 5 – slipping.
SpaceX supremo Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have a long history of competition. While the suit does not directly allege the decision was due to an anyone-but-SpaceX mentality, it goes into exhaustive detail regarding the rivalry between the duo.
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The suit also blasts the decision-making process that resulted in the awards, including the omission of SpaceX's cheaper and proven Falcon 9 launcher.
Project Kuiper, which has yet to get close to orbital space, is a competitor with SpaceX's Starlink and OneWeb's broadband satellite constellation, both of which have spacecraft in orbit. At the time of writing, well over 4,000 Starlink satellites are in orbit, 21 of which were launched on a Falcon 9 on September 3.
OneWeb was forced to confront commercial realities when a March 2022 launch of 36 satellites via Soyuz was scrubbed in light of sanctions against Russia. It switched to alternatives in the form of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and SpaceX to continue building out its constellation.
Project Kuiper, however, has yet to launch despite the contracts, which, according to the lawsuit, "represented the second-largest capital expenditure in Amazon's 25+ year history."
Time is also running down for Project Kuiper. It has less than three years to launch half its constellation – approximately 1,600 satellites – and it must be complete by July 2029. A request to the US Federal Communications Commission to have its license amended seems almost inevitable at this point. ®
Updated at 14.50 UTC on September 5 2023 to add:
A spokesperson at Amazon told us: "The claims in this lawsuit are completely without merit, and we look forward to showing that through the legal process."