Amazon building Project Kuiper R&D headquarters in Washington State

In a blog post published on 18 December, Seattle-based web services giant Amazon announced that it had selected a site in Redmond, Washington, for the research and development (R&D) headquarters of its Project Kuiper, a new initiative to “launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites” to “provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities” globally.

Announced earlier this year, Project Kuiper is a big, billion dollar project that will take years to come to fruition. However, the company claims that the team has, since its inception, made “significant progress towards our goal to serve tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet”.

The project has outgrown its current headquarters, Amazon said, so the company is leasing and renovating a long term home for the team in Redmond, which is intended to be its “primary headquarters for research & development” and its “primary prototype manufacturing and qualification facility”.

The new facility will consist of two buildings with a total of 219,000 square feet of space, including offices and design space, R&D labs and prototype manufacturing facilities. Renovations on the facility are already underway and the move into the new site is planned for 2020.

Amazon has invested over US$38 billion in the Greater Seattle Area since 2010, including infrastructure and compensation. It claims to have created over 53,000 jobs in the region and estimates that its investments have contributed to the creation of an additional 244,000 jobs on top of its direct hires.

“Kuiper is another large initiative for us and our commitment to this project will of course result in further investments by Amazon in infrastructure and compensation,” the company said.

Some private companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, are reportedly lobbying against the company’s efforts to acquire regulatory approval for the planned Kuiper internet constellation. The US government originally gave nine companies licenses to use the Ka-band portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and Amazon is asking for waiver allowing it to gain access as well.

The companies that were originally granted access have argued that giving Amazon access will interfere with their plans as there would be too many satellites attempting to use the same frequencies. It is still unclear whether the waiver will be granted but the government has said that since the companies will not all end up launching satellite constellations, there might be room for other players.

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