The rocket, which Bezos did not name, appears to be a completely different model from the company’s New Shepard rocket, which launched in April. The new model is long and bullet-shaped, whereas New Shepard is squat and blunt.
“It’s vertical takeoff and vertical landing,” the Amazon founder told a press conference. “It’s a great architecture because it scales to unusually large size. I want you to know, one day, and I don’t know how long this will take, I look forward to having a press conference with you guys in space. I look forward to it very much.”
Bezos’s Blue Origin is in competition with several spacefaring firms belonging to his fellow billionaires, among them electric car entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. Google executives Larry Page and Eric Schmidt have invested in a similar company called Planetary Resources.
Also at the conference, at which Bezos spoke alongside Florida governor Rick Scott, it was announced that Blue Origin would build and launch rockets out of facilities in and around Cape Canaveral. Its BE-4 engine will be assembled and tested nearby. “You’ll hear us before you see us,” Bezos told the crowd.
With the aid of about $40m from state coffers (DiBello touted Scott’s “pervasive attention to return on investment”), the company aspires to add space tourism and its attendant industries to Florida’s economy, Bezos said. With its new berth at the Kennedy Space Center, the company joins Musk’s SpaceX, which has leased the historic launch pad 39a (the pad that supported both the first and the last flights of Nasa’s Space Shuttle).
Florida is already home to many tourist attractions and will have space tourism of a less factual kind in a few years when Disney opens its Star Wars theme park in the state (ground-breaking on two parks, one in Florida and one in California, begins in 2016). But Bezos may actually beat Han Solo into orbit: Blue Origin plans launches “later this decade”, in Bezos’s words.
“One thing we’ve tried to do in the last four and a half years is continue to diversify our economy, and the leader in that is aviation and aerospace,” Scott said. “We just went to the Paris Airshow and talked to so many companies; they all want to do business in Florida.”
Presidential candidate and Florida senator Marco Rubio issued a statement in support of the venture. “Policy makers at all levels of government need to make sure America continues to be the best place in the world to do business,” he wrote, “that innovation across all industries is allowed to flourish and that our education system is revolutionized to help equip our people for the new jobs that are coming.”
Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, a state-run economic development group, said Blue Origin’s arrival in the state heralded a new era for the “space coast”.
“Florida’s vision for the space industry is for Florida to become the creator of and global leader in space commerce,” he said. “We’re pleased to see this pad come back to life.”
This article was written by Sam Thielman in New York, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 15th September 2015 17.46 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010