Bruno: Amazon’s launch contracts will help ensure that the West is never again dependent on Russia for launch services
COLORADO SPRINGS — Amazon’s record-breaking deal to buy up to 83 launches from Arianespace, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance is “a big deal” in the context of recent geopolitical developments, ULA CEO Tory Bruno said on April 5. These contracts are not just important for the companies themselves, he said, but also for the industrial competitiveness of Western nations after Russia’s exit from the global launch market
The three launch providers were awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to provide most of Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband megaconstellation of 3,236 satellites.
During a roundtable with reporters at the 37th Space Symposium, Bruno underscored the importance of winning this contract for ULA and for the future of its next-generation Vulcan rocket, which is due to make its first flight later this year. This new business will allow the Company to expand volcanic production and increase infrastructure investments. Moreover, it is “good for the country on several levels,” he said.
The business Amazon’s launch contracts will generate in the United States and Europe will ensure the West is never again dependent on Russia for launch services, Bruno said.
“Russia is not going back to the commercial launch market, that’s it,” he said.
ULA was unable to help OneWeb after the company severed ties with its original launch provider, Russian space company Roscosmos. OneWeb has struck a deal for the launch with SpaceX, but Bruno didn’t rule out the possibility that ULA could support OneWeb launches beyond 2024 if there is still need and Amazon’s commitments are met, Bruno said. “We want to help. We want to do everything to help the West overcome this situation in Ukraine,” he said. “We’re still looking at what we can do for them. Soyuz is gone and they will be gone for the foreseeable future.”
Bruno also suggested that the investments fueled by the Amazon deal would benefit the US government – a major customer of ULA and engine supplier Blue Origin – as the infrastructure developed for Amazon would be used for government launches. And it would ensure that, in the event of another crisis, there would be enough launch capacity so OneWeb history doesn’t repeat itself, Bruno said.
“If, contrary to expectations, Kuiper doesn’t make it, what am I going to do with all this infrastructure? Well, nobody expected that Russia would invade Ukraine,” he said. “And when I look at the overall geopolitical scene, our relationship with Russia and where they’re going in space, and China’s extraordinarily aggressive stance on anti-satellite weapons, it seems to me that this country is going to need a much higher industrial capacity as we move into the continue to develop over the next ten years.”
The US military “will certainly need a high launch pace in times of conflict as it may need to replace in-orbit assets. They need to bring more assets to market” so it can take advantage of the additional capacity generated by Amazon’s contracts.
“So if Amazon goes away, there will be overcapacity in the short term, but in just a few years the government would catch up and I could use that capacity for them,” Bruno said. “It’s not as efficient as having Amazon, but it certainly wouldn’t go to waste.”