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Bezos losing out to Musk in mega-satellite plan?

March 2, 2021

Amazon owner Jeff Bezos looks like suffering delays to his Project Kuiper broadband-by-satellite mega-constellation. Confirmed delays in the availability of his Blue Origin launch rocket could also affect Eutelsat which had reserved a flight on the rocket for one of its satellites.

Bezos is backing the Blue Origin rocket launching system and they have delayed the first launch of its ‘next generation’ and centrepiece New Glenn rocket. Blue Origin say that the new debut date has slipped to late 2022.

New Glenn is Bezos’ heavy-lift answer to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. New Glenn is designed to be partly reusable.

The rocket has multiple uses, not least placing humans into space. Its maiden flight was expected later this year and the system is designed so that the rocket returns to a floating barge, similar to the SpaceX recovery system.

Project Kuiper has FCC approval to launch 3236 satellites, but there’s a caveat: Project Kuiper must launch 50 per cent of the system by 2026.

Officially, Blue Origin announced the delay on Febraury 25th, blaming a lost Pentagon contract.

“New Glenn is proceeding to fulfil its current commercial contracts, pursue a large and growing commercial market, and enter into new civil space launch contracts. We hope to launch NSSL payloads in the future, and remain committed to serving the US national defense mission,” the company said in its statement.

As well as Eutelsat, Blue Origin has launch contracts with customers including MuSpace, OneWeb, SkyPerfect JSAT and Telesat.

The Eutelsat launch agreement was announced in a very public event, the giant Satellite 2017 show on March 7th 2017. At the time Eutelsat said its unnamed satellite would be ready in the 2021-2022 period.

But Blue Origin was also positioning itself as a direct competitor to SpaceX’s offering in particular for ‘rideshare’ projects where a single rocket carries dozens of smaller satellites.

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