• Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and couple members of his team are now leading Amazon’s Project Kuiper, people say.
  • Badyal previously ran the “Starlink” division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year.
  • It is apparent that SpaceX has continued to evolve Starlink in the 10 months since Badyal left.

Amazon’s satellite internet plan is increasingly looking like the one Elon Musk has at SpaceX, with thousands of spacecraft that are compact in size. Among the reasons for the similarities, people tell CNBC, is that Jeff Bezos has hired some of Musk’s previous senior management.

Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and a couple members of his team are now leading Amazon’s Project Kuiper, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

Project Kuiper represents Bezos’ plan to launch 3,236 small satellites into space to provide high-speed internet to anywhere in the world. The plan puts Amazon in the middle of a race among at least five other companies aiming to launch next-generation satellite networks with global broadband coverage.

Badyal previously ran the “Starlink” division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year. SpaceX initially planned for the network to consist of a similar constellation of 4,425 satellites in low Earth orbit. Late last year, the FCC approved an addition of 7,518 satellites to the constellation, bringing Starlink’s planned total to 11,943 satellites in orbit.

Amazon has yet to announce where the satellites will be manufactured and given the time it typically takes to get regulatory approval for similar networks, it appears Bezos’ project is at least two or three years behind Musk. Badyal’s hiring then is a move to bring in talent with the experience of developing this type of satellite internet network.

SpaceX said on Friday the company expects the first full mission of Starlink satellites to launch no earlier than May.

Musk fired Badyal in June, one of the people said, confirming reportslast year that the SpaceX CEO had become frustrated with the pace of Starlink’s development. That was about four months after the launch of the first two Starlink test satellites. According to FCC documents, Starlink will become operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.

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