WASHINGTON, March 14 (Reuters) - Amazon.com (AMZN.O) plans to launch its first internet satellites to space in the first half of 2024 and offer initial commercial tests shortly after, the company said Tuesday, as it prepares to vie with Elon Musk's SpaceX and others to provide broadband internet globally.
Amazon's satellite internet unit, Project Kuiper, will begin mass-producing the satellites later this year, the company said. Those will be the first of over 3,000 satellites the technology giant plans to launch in low-Earth orbit in the next few years.
"We'll definitely be beta testing with commercial customers in 2024," Dave Limp, senior vice president of Amazon devices, said at a conference in Washington.
The 2024 deployment target would keep Amazon on track to fulfill a regulatory mandate to launch half its entire Kuiper network of 3,236 satellites by 2026. Limp, who oversees Amazon's consumer devices powerhouse, said the company plans to make "three to five" satellites a day to reach that goal.
With plans to pump more than $10 billion into the Kuiper network, Amazon sees its experience producing millions of devices from its consumer electronics powerhouse as an edge over rival SpaceX, the Musk-owned space company whose Starlink network already has roughly 4,000 satellites in space.