Amazon is building a giant factory to make internet satellites and compete with SpaceX

Jeff Bezos gestures during a presentation on May 9, 2019. Dave Mosher/Business Insider

Amazon, the tech giant founded by entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, is looking beyond Earth for the next industry it hopes to own: global, space-based web service.

Project Kuiper, as it’s called, is Amazon’s planned effort to launch more than 3,200 satellites into orbit – 1,000 more than operate in space today – and cover the planet with pervasive, low-cost internet service.

Reports about Project Kuiper began to surface in late 2018, and government filings as well as reporting by Alan Boyle at Geekwire later revealed the full scope of the project.

Now the company is looking to make room for its rapidly growing internet gambit with a facility that will be nearly four times the size of an American football field.

“[W]e are leasing and renovating a long term home for the Kuiper team in Redmond, WA, which will become Kuiper’s primary headquarters for research & development, as well as its primary prototype manufacturing and qualification facility,” Amazon announced in a blog post on Wednesday.

“Amazon Kuiper’s new state-of-the-art facility will consist of two buildings with a total of 219,000 square feet of space. It will include offices and design space, R&D labs, and prototype manufacturing facilities. Renovations on the facility are already underway, and the Kuiper team will move into the new site in 2020,” Amazon said.

Project Kuiper is not without competition, though. OneWeb is already manufacturing and launching its own internet-providing satellites.

SpaceX, founded by tech mogul Elon Musk meanwhile, has already launched 120 of its Starlink satellites. The aerospace company has plans to launch 60 additional satellites into its network about every two weeks going forward. Musk said about 1,000 satellites should provide basic service, though government filings suggest the company seeks to get as many as 42,000 circling Earth over the next decade.

Such “mega constellations” of satellites are expected to bring rural, remote, and underserved areas unprecedented high-speed internet access that traditional internet satellites can’t provide, but such efforts are a cause for concern for some experts.

Spacecraft operators worry that multiplying the number of satellites in space without much regulatory oversight could dramatically increase the risk to the entire orbital environment via accidental collisions and resulting fields of space debris.

Astronomers, meanwhile, say thousands of shiny satellites will heavily disrupt their ability to study the cosmos from Earth.