The private space race is getting heated, with companies like SpaceX and Orbital Sciences in the U.S. making huge strides in recent years. And now, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has thrown his hat firmly into the ring, with the announcement of a new launch facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
His space company, Blue Origin, has previously made clear its intentions to start launching cargo and ultimately humans to space. Many see the company as a direct competitor to Elon Musk’s SpaceX, with the two clashing over launch facilities and patents for reusable rockets in recent times.
This latest $200 million (£130 million) investment will see Blue Origin take over Launch Complex 36 from NASA at Cape Canaveral (SpaceX is operating from Launch Complex 39), which was previously used for Atlas rocket launches from 1962 to 2005. The pad will likely be used for an upcoming unnamed orbital rocket Blue Origin is developing. Earlier this year, it showed off its sub-orbital New Shepard vehicle at a testing site in West Texas.
“Cape Canaveral has long been a gateway to humankind’s greatest adventures,” said Bezos in a statement. “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.”
Jeff Bezos made the announcement at a press conference yesterday. Blue Origin.
Blue Origin also announced it was developing a new methane-fueled rocket engine for spaceflight company United Launch Alliance (ULA). Dubbed the BE-4, the engine will be used on ULAs upcoming Vulcan rocket.
Compared to SpaceX, which is keen to shout about its successes and even its failures, Blue Origin is much more secretive. Indeed, the test of New Shepard in April this year came as a surprise to many. Thus, many are still unsure exactly what the company will be using this launchpad for. But it’s clear that, while they might be competing for lucrative launch contracts via different methods, Bezos shares Musk’s vision for space exploration.
“I don’t know how long this will take,” Bezos said yesterday, “but one day I look forward to having a press conference with you guys in space.”
Powerful words indeed. The race is on.