The private space travel company Blue Origin, backed by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, will reportedly invest $200 million in Florida in order to make the state the basis of its operations. The expansion by the upstart rocketry company is estimated to create 330 new jobs in the state.
The company, which was founded in 2000, plans to launch rockets from Cape Canaveral, FL. The site, known as Complex 36, has been sitting unused since 2005 after the retirement of the space shuttle. The facility saw 145 rocket launches over 43 years of service.
Bezos commented on the news by stating that “We’re not just launching here, we’re building here. Our ultimate vision is millions of people living and working in space.”
Jeff Bezos is one of several tremendously successful entrepreneurs who believe that space travel is the next big investment opportunity. Others include Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk of SpaceX. Branson wants to offer space trips for thrill-seekers while Musk dreams about transporting people to Mars.
Blue Origin plans to establish a production facility that will be located in Exploration Park. The facility will produce the company’s reusable fleet of orbital launchers and will also prepare them for repeated flights. By placing the assembly facility near the launch site, the challenge of processing and transporting rockets will be reduced.
The company states that it will begin testing launches from Florida later this decade. At the present time, the company plans to test its BE-4 engine at Complex 36. The BE-4 engine, which was made in America, is slated to power the Vulcan Rocket from United Launch Alliance (ULA). ULA is a joint venture between industry heavyweights Lockheed Martin Corporation and Boeing.
The process of developing economically efficient methods of transporting people to space is still extremely expensive and highly time-consuming. Another American upstart rocket company, SpaceX, experienced a major setback in June when an unmanned cargo rocket exploded just minutes after launch. The event reminded everyone that space exploration is a very difficult task despite numerous advancements in technology since the days of the moon missions.
There have also been failed attempts by both Blue Origin and SpaceX to retrieve rocket components that typically burn up during the flight. Retaining these parts would greatly lessen the expenses associated with space travel and open new commercial opportunities.
Blue Origin’s economic investment in Florida is a breath of fresh air for the local economy that had been devastated with NASA ended its shuttle program in 2011. SpaceX and United Launch Alliance have also made use of the old launch sites, which date back to NASA’s glory years.