On Tuesday, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, unveiled plans for building a rocket manufacturing and launch plant in Florida for competing with other billionaires in a better way who are using their tech prowess and fortunes for opening a new frontier in human space exploration and travel. Blue Origin is the name given to this space startup belonging to Bezos and he will be making an investment of $200 million for building the rocket manufacturing facility adjacent to the Kennedy Space Center of NASA. South of the spaceport belonging to NASA at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a refurbished launch pad will be used for flying the rockets.
An invitation-only crowd was gathered at the construction site of the new launch pad of the company where Bezos said that the giant Saturn 5 or Apollo moon missions that took off from the same place had been a great inspiration for him as a child and he was excited to kick off a new era of exploration from the Sunshine State again. The announcement by the founder of the biggest online e-commerce platform comes at a crucial time for the US space industry, which is attempting to attract private sector technological innovation and investment for improving the safety and reducing the cost of space travel.
Blue Origin will compete with SpaceX, which belongs to Elon Musk and a few other startups that have the support of other billionaire entrepreneurs. This includes Richard Branson, the chief executive of the Virgin Group and Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft. Similar to the goal of Virgin Galactic belonging to Branson, Bezos startups wants to take tourists up into suborbital and then eventually into orbital space. Jeff Bezos said that there was a lot of competition in this industry, but there was also passion and heart behind these ventures.
He also asserted that if money-making was his goal, he would have simply opened a snack food company as the chances of success would have been higher in that case, but he doesn’t want to go there. A small rocket called West Shepherd has been under development and testing in West Texas by Blue Origin, which can travel around 100 km above the planet before returning. The new rockets of the company are yet to be named and will have the ability of reaching orbital altitudes like the 400 km perch of the International Space Station and onwards.
The new BE-4 engines of Blue Origin will also be tested in Florida. The company is doing engine development with the help of partner United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is a joint-venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Later, Bezos informed reporters that he wasn’t sure if the engine would first fly on Blue’s booster or the Vulcan rocket of the ULA. An alternative engine is also being backed by ULA, which is being developed by Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. Bezos said that the decision of what to do would be ULA’s choice, but they were going to work hard to create the best possible engine.