Back in September, we found that Amazon was hiring engineers to help build “a big, audacious space project” involving “building, owning and operating satellite and space systems.” In November, Amazon announced AWS Ground Station, a network of 12 antennas that customers can use to download and process data directly from satellites into AWS.
However, it turns out at AWS Ground Station is itself just part of a larger, more ambitious space and satellite project. Amazon has confirmed Project Kuiper, a business it has formed to develop a network of thousands of satellites designed to provide internet connectivity to people around the world, after GeekWire uncovered filings made with the International Telecommunications Union and FCC.
While Amazon has publicly confirmed the project, it has not said how it plans to procure thousands of satellites or whether the company is planning to design and build its own satellite platform in-house. However, based on dozens of new job posts we are seeing, it seems clear that Amazon is planning to design its own satellites in-house from scratch.
Since Amazon made the Project Kuiper announcement, it has posted about 70 spacecraft and satellite engineering positions associated with the project, ranging across everything from propulsion to antennas all the way down to custom silicon. Here are just a handful of examples:
- Electric Propulsion System Development Lead
- Embedded Flight Software Specialist
- Engineering Manager – Satellite Guidance Navigation and Control
- Senior Antenna Engineer
- Senior Mechanical Engineer – Solar Array Design
- Senior Mechanical Engineer – Spacecraft Batteries
- Senior Mechanical Engineer – Spacecraft Design
- Senior Mechanical Engineer – Spacecraft Mechanisms
- Senior Technical Program Manager, Launch Vehicle System Integration
- Sr. Manager – Wireless ASIC SOCs
- Sr. Manager – Wireless RF Silicon
- Technical Manager, Flight Dynamics Systems
This means Amazon will likely be drawing talent from and competing for talent with other commercial and military spacecraft design firms, including SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, and many others.
While Amazon’s consumer ISP offering is likely to be offered under Amazon’s brand, we also see a future in which Amazon leverages its expertise and AWS integration capabilities to offer satellite-based services through an expanded AWS space offering. Amazon has proven its ability to build a highly modular and complex system of cloud-based services based on systems originally designed for its own consumer services. Dog-fooding its own satellite hardware before developing new satellite platforms in order to offer additional capabilities to business customers as a service would not be strategically unprecedented.
Above image credit: NASA