The Space Race is back in full swing — only this time with tech titans taking on the roles of aeronautic adversaries.
On Tuesday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, will set up shop at Cape Canaveral, on Florida’s Space Coast, where it will compete with other private space firms being shepherded by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and Virgin Group’s Richard Branson. From its new launch site at Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral, Blue Origin will build orbital rockets with the goal of achieving its first rocket launch before the end of the current decade, Bezos said.
In a blog post, Bezos said the company is “thrilled to be coming to the Sunshine State for a new era of exploration.” Blue Origin’s headquarters are in Kent, Wash.
The company will also test its BE-4 rocket engine at the Florida launch site. The engine is being developed as part of a partnership between Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance — the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Blue Origin and ULA teamed up last year to develop the BE-4 after the U.S. congressional embargo on Russian products prevented ULA from using Russian-built engines in launch vehicles.
Earlier this year, Blue Origin held flight tests for a suborbital spaceship that the company launched from a facility in Texas.
Meanwhile, Musk’s SpaceX has been launching spacecraft for some time now, including several cargo supply trips to the International Space Station. Private space exploration received a jolt earlier this summer when one of SpaceX’s resupply flights failed mid-flight and exploded — a failure that came less than a year after a Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShip Two exploded, killing one pilot. SpaceX has also tried repeatedly — so far, unsuccessfully — to land its rockets’ first-stage boosters safely on a barge floating in the Atlantic ocean in order to reuse the expensive pieces of equipment.
Like Blue Origin, Branson’s Virgin Galactic has plans to use its rockets to one day carry tourists into space as well as launching satellites.
Of course, this could all just be a ploy by Bezos, Branson and Musk to form a billionaires-only club in space.