Jeff Bezos Is Bringing His Space Company to Florida
NASA is getting some more company on the Space Coast: Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is bringing his private space exploration company Blue Origin to Florida. The stretch of land along the Atlantic coast is home to the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, from which NASA has launched all of its manned missions as well as many historic unmanned spacecraft.
In addition to a new operations facility in Florida and launching rockets from Cape Canaveral, the company will open a manufacturing and testing center in the region. “We’re not just going to launch here, we’re building here,” Bezos said at a press conference at Cape Canaveral today.
“We’ll be launching from here later this decade,” he said at the press conference. “You will hear us before you see us. Our American-made BE-4 engine—the power behind our orbital launch vehicle—will be acceptance-tested here.”
By building rockets near the launch site, Blue Origin will avoid having to ship large vehicles across the country, Bezos tells WIRED. Blue Origin will keep both its Seattle headquarters and its West Texas launch facility, he says, but will bring over 300 new jobs to the Space Coast. “This was a very competitive process,” Bezos told us. “We looked at five different states. A couple different advantages that I can point out: it’s very geographically advantageous to launch from here. There’s also a big pool of technical talent here.”
Blue Origin plans to launch its experimental rockets from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 36, which has previously hosted 145 different launches, including the Pioneer missions, which were the first to explore the outer planets, and NASA’s Mariner program, which was the first to capture photos of another planet. But the site has been dormant for the past 10 years. “We can’t wait to fix that,” Bezos said at the press conference.
Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000 with the goal of making space travel more affordable, but the company has been quiet until recently. A year ago it announced an agreement to build rocket engines for United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and it launched its own first experimental spacecraft, a reusable rocket called New Shepard, earlier this year. Last week rumors emerged that competing rocket maker Aerojet Rocketdyne may try to acquired United Launch Alliance, which would be a setback for Blue Origin. But Bezos says those rumors won’t have any affect on the new Florida facility. “We were working on those engines for three years before we entered into an agreement with ULA,” he tells us. “We need those engines for our own rockets.”
Blue Origin also has a non-funded contract with NASA to develop its reusable rockets, and Bezos hopes to work more with the space agency in the future. “Long term you could imagine our vehicles could help supply the international space station,” he says. “We could help launch probes to other problems.”
Blue Origin’s approach is deliberately incremental. The company’s motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” Latin for “step-by-step, ferociously.” But it’s still every bit as ambitious as SpaceX or Virgin Galactic. “The longterm goal is millions of people living in space,” he says. “But as a civilazation we have a long way to go.”
Although he told reporters today that he looks forward to having a press conference in space, Bezos has yet to visit space himself. “I definitely plan to go at some point,” he says. “I want to go on a Blue Origin vehicle.”
This story is developing.