Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced on Tuesday that Blue Origin, his private aerospace manufacturer, will build and launch reusable rockets at Cape Canaveral, Florida. This means that the business magnate has just stepped into the space game against rival projects from fellow billionaires Elon Musk, Paul Allen and Richard Branson, among others.
“As a kid, I was inspired by the giant Saturn V missions that roared to life from these shores. Now we are thrilled to be coming to the Sunshine State for a new era of exploration,” said Bezos in a Blue Origin statement.
Investment from wealthy entrepreneurs with a special interest for space will open the path of a new era that would make traveling to outer space accessible to anyone, Bezos explained. He also announced that Blue Origin will invest $200 million into a new rocket manufacture facility and launch site at Launch Complex 36, Exploration Park near the Kennedy Space Center. The location is just right as it will keep the vehicle assembly close to the launch pad making the transportation of the rockets easier.
The rockets will be launched later this decade, Bezos stated. The first flights will carry only supplies or satellites to gain practice and experience before letting people get aboard. No date has been scheduled to send the first human flight to space, however, the orbital launch vehicle certified to transport humans will be named “Very Big Brother”.
“Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space,” Bezos said during interviews after the Blue Origin announcement. ”We have a long way to go.”
Currently, there are only six people in space now. Two of them, US astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienki, are enduring a year-long experiment for researchers to understand the effects of long-duration spaceflights in the human body.
“We’ll be launching from here later this decade,” Bezos said, but “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.”
Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket engine is currently being developed through a partnership between Blue Origin and the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture called United Launch Alliance. It will also be tested in Florida.
The powerful BE-4, burning liquid oxygen with liquefied natural gas to generate 550,000 pounds of thrust, also will be used in the first stage of United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan rocket.
Additionally a less-powerful engine, the BE-3, will also be used by the rockets. The BE-3 already powers Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, which is designed to carry people or instruments in a capsule just above the atmosphere for quick periods of weightlessness before a parachute begins its descent to Earth. In April, the company accomplished a partially successful launch of the New Shepard at its test facility in West Texas.
Five states competed to host Blue Origin’s orbital missions, but Florida, with a large aerospace workforce, low taxes and pre-existing launch infrastructure, won the battle.
Pioneers in Space
Blue Origin just stepped in the competition against Tesla Motors Inc. founder Elon Musk, and CEO of SpaceX, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, Virgin Group Chief Executive Richard Branson, and other fellow billionaire entrepreneurs who also seek to conquer the space market.
Nevertheless, Bezos said he respects other players pursuing their interest in space. “We’ve always been pioneers,” he said. “We need to continue that pioneering spirit and a big part of that is becoming space faring.”
Blue Origin was founded in 2000, and now has about 400 employees in Kent, Washington, mostly engineers. The company also has a testing facility in Texas and it is expected for the Cape Canaveral facility to create 330 jobs.
“I’m kind of well known for being long-term oriented,” Bezos laughed. “Blue Origin is going to set a new standard for me in that regard.”
Source: Blue Origin