Amazon founder's start-up to launch rockets from Florida

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announcing plans to build a rocket manufacturing plant and launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday.
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos announcing plans to build a rocket manufacturing plant and launch site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS

'Vehicle for humans' will make debut later this decade

MIAMI • The commercial space race has become a little more crowded with aerospace company Blue Origin, headed by Amazon.

com founder Jeff Bezos, announcing plans to begin launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, later this decade.

Mr Bezos' space start-up intends to invest more than US$200 million (S$280 million) to build the rocket-making facility adjacent to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Kennedy Space Centre.

He said on Tuesday that 145 launches "thundered into space from here", including the Mariner missions which were the first United States spacecraft to visit other planets.

"The pad has stood silent for more than 10 years. Too long. We can't wait to fix that," Mr Bezos said. But even now, exactly what Blue Origin plans to launch from Cape Canaveral remains somewhat mysterious. The rocket, still unnamed, will be large enough to reach orbit, and it will debut later this decade, Mr Bezos said.

"We're building a vehicle for humans," he said. "That's my personal passion."

But such a rocket "can clearly lift payloads of all kinds", he added.

He also said a vehicle-assembly building would be located near the launch pad in order to make it easier to "process and transport really big rockets".

He said the company is working on a US-made BE-4 rocket engine that would undergo tests at the pad, and that the BE-4 would eventually power the Vulcan rocket of United Launch Alliance - a 50-50 rocket launch venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing.

Work on new engines by several firms gained urgency after US lawmakers banned the use of Russian RD-180 engines for launches of US military or spy satellites following Russia's annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine last year.

Blue Origin's New Shepard spacecraft is built to fly just to the edge of space, in sub-orbit, and the company is working on a future launch system to send as many as six astronauts to orbit at a time. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline 'Amazon founder's start-up to launch rockets from Florida'. Print Edition | Subscribe