Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has hired the former boss of SpaceX’s Starlink satellite division and other SpaceX execs to jump-start development of his own Kuiper satellite constellation.

Bezos has announced the appointment of Rajeev Badyal, former vice president for satellites at SpaceX, to lead Amazon’s Project Kuiper. He revealed the existence of Project Kuiper late last week and said this multi-billion dollar endeavor will ultimately deploy a satellite constellation with 3,236 satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO).

The Kuiper constellation will provide high-speed broadband internet services to the unserved or underserved population of the world. The project will be run by an Amazon subsidiary named Kuiper Systems LLC, which Badyal now heads.

Amazon describes Project Kuiper as “a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world.”

Amazon said its Kuiper constellation will provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south, an area encompassing 95 percent of the world's population.

Badyal, who worked for Microsoft Corporation before hopping over to SpaceX, was fired by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in June 2018 over serious disagreements concerning the pace of Starlink satellite development. Well-informed sources said Badyal “wanted three more iterations of test satellites," while Musk insisted the job could be done “with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner."

Badyal continued to insist on longer development schedules for Starlink satellites than what Musk wanted, and the SpaceX CEO is known for setting deadlines he expects to be met.

Under Badyal’s watch, Starlink launched its first two test satellites in 2018. Six other senior executives at the Starlink project were also fired in 2018 after disagreements with Musk. A number of these SpaceX bosses have followed Badyal to Kuiper Systems. 

jeff bezos Jeff Bezos (R), the founder of Blue Origin and Amazon.com, gestures toward a model of the BE-4 rocket engine. Bezos now plans to launch over 3,000 internet satellites in his latest space venture. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Analysts said Badyal’s hiring is a move to bring in talent with experience in developing this type of satellite internet network. They pointed out Project Kuiper is at least two or three years behind Starlink, noting that SpaceX filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2016.

Amazon hasn’t announced where its Kuiper satellites will be manufactured.

The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation will consist of 11,943 satellites in LEO. The FCC first approved the launch of 4,425 satellites. It later gave its nod to an additional 7,518 Starlink satellites.

SpaceX last week said it expects the first full Starlink satellite mission to launch no earlier than May. Starlink will become operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.