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Amazon’s satellite internet network Project Kuiper plans new Everett facility

By Lauren Rosenblatt, The Seattle Times
Published: May 18, 2024, 6:05am

Amazon will open a new logistics center in Everett

for its broadband satellite network, Project Kuiper, expanding its ability to design, test and manufacture satellites in the Puget Sound region.

At the 184,000-square-foot facility, Project Kuiper workers will receive and sort supplies that will then be used to construct thousands of satellites. Those materials from third-party vendors will be the physical and metaphorical nuts and bolts that are used to construct each satellite. They will range from electrical boxes to mechanical structures to specialty items, said Steven Metayer, vice president of product operations at Amazon.

The new facility, set to open in June, will help streamline the manufacturing process as Project Kuiper prepares to launch its first production satellites later this year.

Employees will collect and inspect the raw materials and then compile a production kit that will be sent to Project Kuiper’s manufacturing facility in Kirkland, where the satellites are made. That hub opened its doors last year and began manufacturing satellites in April, Metayer said.

The new facility in Everett is “a big step in our supply chain operation,” he continued.

Through Project Kuiper, Amazon hopes to bring high-speed, low-latency broadband to areas that don’t have reliable internet access, using a low Earth orbit satellite network with more than 3,000 satellites. After a successful prototype launch in October, Project Kuiper aims to launch its first production satellites sometime this year, though Metayer said it’s too early to pinpoint a specific date.

There’s a “very prescribed” ramp-up plan, Metayer said. With “something as complicated as this, you start out walking, then eventually you run.”

In the race to provide broadband, Project Kuiper is competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which flew its first Starlink satellites in 2018 and has since launched more than 5,000 satellites using its own rockets.

Project Kuiper’s satellites are largely built in Washington, before heading to Cape Canaveral, Fla., where they will integrate with the rockets that will carry them to space. The prototype satellites launched aboard the Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, and the production satellites are expected to take off on another ULA rocket.

In Washington, Amazon has continually increased its Project Kuiper footprint over the last few years. It opened a 219,000-square-foot research and development facility in Redmond in 2020 to design and test its satellites and announced the 172,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Kirkland in 2022.

Expanding in the Puget Sound region “was always in the plan,” Metayer said. “The reason why we’re here is to keep it close to the engineering team, the people who designed it and know the most about it.”

“We’re pretty confident that the footprint we’re building will give us the ability to have a full constellation” of satellites, he said.

Once the manufacturing facility reaches its peak capacity next year, the Kirkland factory will be able to build five satellites per day, Metayer said.

The logistics center in Everett will have space to store enough materials for five satellites per day and a couple months of supplies, he added.

Once fully operational later this year, the Everett center will create 200 jobs, according to Amazon. The Kirkland center will have 250 jobs once fully ramped up.

Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin said Tuesday in a prepared statement that the new facility will have a positive impact on Everett’s economy and that she is excited to “put our stamp on a project that will help transform the world.”

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As part of its expansion in Washington, Amazon also announced Tuesday it has partnered with the Lake Washington Institute of Technology to create a satellite technician certificate program. The certificate will focus on safety protocols, aerospace assembly skills, electrical systems and emerging technologies, Amazon said.

Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president of public policy and community engagement, said in a prepared statement that the partnership will “create a pipeline of future satellite technicians to meet the evolving needs of this area’s thriving space and satellite sectors, and give more people the opportunity to take part in Project Kuiper’s important mission.”

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