Step aside, Elon Musk and Richard Branson — another uber-rich billionaire with his eyes to the sky is moving into your neighborhood and isn’t content with you hogging all the space exploration fun. During an official announcement Tuesday, Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos said he plans to operate his Blue Origin space company on Florida’s Space Coast, unveiling plans for a $200 million space launch and manufacturing facility. The new establishment will create a brand new base of operations for Blue Origin — originally based out of Kent, Washington — to further the company’s orbital space goals and to help it make space travel less expensive.
Located just south of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Blue Origin intends to break ground on its new manufacturing facility at Exploration Park with its orbital launches set to take place at Launch Complex 36. While it hasn’t seen a rocket launch in a number of years, Launch Complex 36 served as one of NASA’s most-used launch sites, registering an astounding 145 launches over the course of its 43 years of use. Most notable of these launches included the Pioneer 10, the Surveyor 1, and the Mariner missions — the first U.S. spacecrafts to visit other planets. Aside from its laundry list of launched missions, Complex 36 has remained dormant for the better part of the 21st century.
“The site saw its last launch in 2005 and the pad has stood silent for more than 10 years — too long,” Bezos said. “We can’t wait to fix that.”
During the announcement, Bezos also made it a point to say he’s not content with just launching the company’s rockets in Florida, but also building and maintaining his fleet of orbital launchers. Because of this, Blue Origin is said to be bringing some 330 jobs to the area, according to Florida Governor Rick Scott. Scott called the move an incredible milestone for the area’s space industry, and something it’s badly needed since the shuttle program ended.
Though Bezos and Blue Origin only just made the announcement today, the business magnate did make a bold prediction that Blue Origin would launch from its new site before the end of the decade. Considering the Boeing and Lockheed rocket company United Launch Associates just announced last week it’s expanding production of Blue Origin’s BE-4 rocket motor, this prediction seems incredibly within reach.
“I don’t know how long this will take, but one day, I look forward to having a press conference with you guys in space,” Bezos said to those attending the announcement in Florida. “Looking forward to it very much.”
Jeff Bezos certainly doesn’t fit the mold of a Tony Stark type, a la Elon Musk, but there’s no denying his seemingly limitless ambition to explore the stars. Florida’s Space Coast may be getting a bit more crowded, though this is one congested strip of coastline I’m sure no one will complain about.