Jeff Bezos’ plans for space go well beyond the short trip he’ll be making there on Tuesday.
The Amazon.com Inc.
Founder poured billions into his space company Blue Origin LLC for more than two decades, believing that ultimately humanity must build outposts across the solar system.
In the immediate vicinity, Mr. Bezos’ company is looking for business in a space market that will triple in annual sales to more than $ 1 trillion by 2040, says Morgan Stanley, assuming rapid technological developments will enable routine moon landings, asteroid mining, and space tourism .
His own giant leap comes when Blue Origin is set to take Mr. Bezos and three other people to the edge of space in an 11-minute flight, the first ever passenger launch on the company’s New Shepard rocket.
A successful trip could create traction in an emerging space tourism market that includes Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc.
Blue Origin’s bigger challenge is to win large government contracts that provide a steady source of revenue and add credibility to the companies that secure them. Space Exploration Technologies Corp., the formal name of Elon Musk’s SpaceX, is ahead of Blue Origin in winning these deals.
Blue Origin has been building operations for years and developing a portfolio of missiles, engines and vehicles. That boost was enlivened by what Mr Bezos has referred to as his passion for space. He has cited the Apollo 11 moon landing mission as a fundamental moment for him, referencing science fiction writers such as Arthur C. Clarke and the scientist and author Carl Sagan in speeches.
âIf we’re out in the solar system, we can have a trillion people in the solar system, which means we would have a thousand Mozarts and a thousand Einsteins. That would be an incredible civilization, âsaid Mr Bezos in a speech two years ago. To that end, Blue Origin can cut the cost of space launches, in part by developing reusable rockets, Mr Bezos said.
The lecture by the Amazon founder is paired with large financial obligations. Mr Bezos announced that he has sold $ 1 billion worth of Amazon stock annually to fund Blue Origin.
After founding Blue Origin in 2000, Mr. Bezos began acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres of land in West Texas for the company’s property earlier this decade.
In addition to its launch site in Texas, the company now has facilities in Florida, California, Alabama, and Washington, DC, and headquarters outside of Seattle. It employs more than 3,500 people, including Chief Executive Bob Smith, a former executive of Honeywell International Inc.’s
Aerospace unit. Privately held Blue Origin does not publish financial statements.
Mr. Bezos is “doing what he did with Amazon, turning every nickel he could get into capital goods and innovation,” said Howard McCurdy, American University professor who wrote on space and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Has .
This year, Blue Origin intends to operate two additional flights with passengers on the New Shepard after it launched on Tuesday, executives said at a briefing on Sunday. Mr Smith did not specify how much the company sells tickets for.
âThe willingness to pay is still quite high. Our early flights come at a very good price, âhe said.
Outside of the burgeoning space tourism market, SpaceX has delved into space-related agencies in Washington. According to a federal spending database, NASA and the Pentagon have spent $ 2.8 billion over the past 14 federal fiscal years tied to 52 major contracts won by the company Mr. Musk led. They have spent $ 496.5 million on 33 contracts that Blue Origin won during that period.
Blue Origin didn’t respond to questions about competing with SpaceX or its plans to work with government agencies. Mr Smith has said in the past that the company would like to work with such customers.
The two companies argue over a deal to build a lunar lander for a trip planned for 2024. The Apollo 11 lunar lander reached the moon in 1969 on July 20, the same date for Mr Bezos’ planned space trip on Tuesday. NASA awarded the land contract to SpaceX in April, but Blue Origin protested the decision to the US Government Accountability Office, a move that could result in NASA re-offering the contract.
Accountability is expected to settle Blue Origin’s case by August 4th. The Dynetics unit at Leidos Holdings Inc.
also competed for the lander and filed a protest.
SpaceX is now the most prolific launcher, having dispatched 23 rockets so far this year, according to Federal Aviation Administration data on licensed launches. Its reusable rockets help lower the cost of reaching space, a strategy also pursued by Blue Origin, which has completed nine such launches since late 2017.
âYou need to have a track record,â said Marco CÃ¡ceres, a space analyst with aerospace consultancy Teal Group, referring to Blue Origin.
The New Shepard missile, slated to soar on Tuesday, was designed for tourist travel into suborbital space, with a six-person chewing gum-shaped capsule and windows that extend 3.5 feet by 2.3 feet on its sides. The passengers of the ship are next to the Amazon founder Mark Bezos, the brother of Mr. Bezos; Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pilot who completed a female astronaut program in the 1960s; and Oliver Daemen, an 18 year old Dutch student, the company’s first paying customer.
The company also developed the New Glenn rocket, a vehicle that will be 321 feet tall and designed to lift large payloads into orbit using seven main engines. In February, Blue Origin announced that it had made progress on several hardware components for the rocket and was aiming for a maiden flight for New Glenn towards the end of next year.
Blue Origin has made arrangements to bring its technology to the space market. The company is developing a new rocket engine for the United Launch Alliance that will launch satellites for the Pentagon and US intelligence agencies. The engine, which will replace the engines now made in Russia, is behind schedule. Last week, NASA said Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies, a Seattle-based company, would join Blue Origin, General Electric Co.
and other companies to develop concepts for nuclear propulsion systems that could propel vehicles into space.
Blue Origins “aspirations are to become a company like SpaceX like Boeing”,
like Lockheed Martin,
âSaid John Logsdon, the former director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.
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