Space Travel

Amazon's Jeff Bezos to Build Rocket Plant, Launch Pad in Florida

Amazon's Jeff Bezos to Build Rocket Plant, Launch Pad in Florida

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Image credit: Amazon

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on Tuesday unveiled plans to build a rocket manufacturing plant and launch site in Florida, a business that will compete against fellow tech billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Bezos’ space startup, Blue Origin, intends to invest more than $200 million to build a rocket manufacturing facility adjacent to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, state officials said. The rockets will fly from a refurbished launchpad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, located just south of the NASA spaceport.

The announcement follows last week’s opening of a Boeing commercial spaceship assembly plant at the Kennedy Space Center. Both projects included financial backing from state, local and regional economic development agencies. So far, Florida has invested about $2 billion to lure aerospace companies to the state.

Blue Origin has been developing and testing a small rocket, called New Shepard, that can travel about 100 miles (62 km) above the planet before returning to Earth. The company’s new rockets will be able to reach orbital altitudes, such as the 250- (400 km) mile-high perch of the International Space Station, and beyond.

Bezos, who was in Florida to make the announcement, said Blue Origin also will test its BE-4 engines at the new launch site. The company is partnering with United Launch Alliance, a joint-venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, on the engine development.

Blue Origin's still-to-be-named rockets also will compete against United Launch Alliance, as well as privately owned SpaceX, founded and run by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.

“This is a translational moment ... the evolution of a new commercial space industry in Florida,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, an economic development agency.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Daniel Grebler)

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