Jeff Bezos Brags About Rocket Landing With Mic Drop First Tweet
Jeff Bezos just accomplished the near impossible: one-upping Elon Musk.
Bezos’s private space company, Blue Origin, has just completed a successful Earth landing of its New Shepard rocket, making it the first reusable rocket to land totally intact, something that has eluded Musk’s SpaceX. In a press release announcing the momentous occasion, Bezos even struck a Musk-ian tone, laying out his plan “to seed an enduring human presence in space to help us move beyond this blue planet that is the origin of all we know.”
The landing is a sign that Blue Origin, which many wrote off as another billionaire’s eccentric side project, is a contender for the space race, right alongside better known companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic. Just this month, Politico reported that the company hired its first in-house lobbyist and is starting to spend some of the money that Bezos poured into Blue Origin’s political action committee.
There’s good reason for Bezos—and his competitors—to take Blue Origin seriously. Private space flight is already shaping up to be big business, even in its infancy. Last year, SpaceX won a $2.6 billion contract to ferry NASA astronauts to and from space. Boeing’s contract to do the same was a whopping $4.2 billion.
But while the landing, itself, is historic, so is the way Bezos announced it—with his first Tweet.
The rarest of beasts – a used rocket. Controlled landing not easy, but done right, can look easy. Check out video: https://t.co/9OypFoxZk3
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) November 24, 2015
Of course, it wouldn’t be a true Twitter debut without a little bit of snark from Marc Andreessen:
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) November 24, 2015
Jeff Bezos just got some good news: a Boeing spokesperson told Reuters that the company will reject a $2 billion bid for United Launch Alliance, the rocket-launching company that it co-owns with Lockheed Martin.
That’s good for Bezos because the bidder was Aerojet Rocketdyne, which competes with his rocket-making company Blue Origin. Last year Blue Origin inked a deal to build engines for ULA’s Vulcan launching system, a deal it just expanded last week. Had Aerojet Rocketdyne taken over ULA, it’s possible the company would have opted to use its own engines instead of Blue Origin’s.
Earlier this week Bezos told WIRED that the potential acquisition of ULA wouldn’t affect Blue Origin’s plans to build a new manufacturing operation in Florida. After all, the company spent years developing its engines before ever inking those deals. Still, the company’s commitment to its existing deals with Blue Origin must come as a relief to Bezos, whose rocket business seems at the moment to be doing better than his phone business.
Samsung is the latest company eyeing satellites as the best way to expand the reach of the internet to the billions of people without access. In a paper published this week, Farooq Khan, head of Samsung Research America, outlines an idea for using thousands of small low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high-speed internet all over the planet.
Traditional satellite internet providers use geostationary satellites positioned much further from the earth’s surface to provide access. The problem is that these services tend to be slow, expensive and have high latency. By using a large number of smaller and cheaper satellites floating closer to the planet, Khan and company hope to speed connections up significantly while also cutting costs.
So far it’s just a research paper, but Samsung is far from alone in exploring this idea. A company called OneWeb has received funding from , as well as backing from Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space X is working on a similar scheme as well, complete with backing from Google.
Some analysts are skeptical that delivering internet by satellite can be profitable without requiring monthly fees that few in the developing world will be able to afford. Wireless spectrum availability is another ongoing issue for new satellite providers.
But Khan’s paper proposes that a new technology that uses the extremely high-frequencies known as the millimeter wave spectrum could overcome some of these limitations and reduce the cost. Telecommunications companies, including Samsung, are already considering millimeter wave technologies as the basis for 5G, the replacement for the modern 4G wireless standard. Khan writes that a 5G-based standard could simplify internet-by-satellite and reduce its cost.
Satellite internet provider StarBand said on its website today that it will shut down, citing increased costs and competition from other forms of broadband.
The end of StarBand, slated for September 30, underscores the costs involved with offering satellite internet services, even as at least two other companies are trying to muscle into the market. OneWeb, backed by eccentric billionaire Richard Branson, and SpaceX, run by eccentric entrepreneur Elon Musk, both aim to offer satellite internet through large constellations of smaller satellites in low-earth orbit. These could provide faster connection speeds and lower latency than the high-orbit services offered by companies like StarBand. But analysts have questioned whether either OneWeb or SpaceX will be able to sell access to such a service at a low enough price for customers to afford while still turning a profit.
But StarBand’s shutdown offers a potential silver lining to SpaceX. Wireless spectrum for offering internet from the sky is limited, but OneWeb was able to acquire a large spectrum swath from the defunct satellite internet startup Teledesic. With StarBand shutting down, more spectrum may soon be on the market for SpaceX to scoop up.
Satellite internet provider Intelsat has asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject an application from Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX for permission to test its proposed satellite internet service.
SpaceX hopes to build a large constellation of small, low earth orbit satellites capable of blanketing the globe in wireless internet coverage. Such a service would obviously be a threat to Intelsat’s existing business model. But at the moment, Intelsat’s concerns are technological. It’s worried that SpaceX’s experimental satellites could interrupt its own services and is asking the FCC to require SpaceX to disclose more information about its plans, even though the company has requested to keep much of this information confidential.
SpaceX claimed in its application for the experimental license that “interference with other systems is very unlikely.” But Intelstat isn’t buying it.
“The information that SpaceX is seeking to withhold is the kind of basic information that is routinely, and publicly, filed by other satellite operators (both GSO and NGSO) in applications seeking FCC authorizations,” Crandall wrote. “The information withheld is critical to any analysis of potential interference.”