Just south of Blue Origin’s imposing campus at Kennedy Space Center, an empty patch of land will soon be transformed into a sprawling, technology-laden extension of the aerospace company’s existing rocket manufacturing facility.
Labeled as “South Campus” in water management district documents obtained by FLORIDA TODAY, the 90-acre expansion will connect to the factory at Exploration Park, which is a publicly accessible region just west of KSC’s main gate. The two-lane Space Commerce Way winds through the area, connecting other players like satellite company OneWeb, economic development agency Space Florida and the main entrance to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The south campus will nearly double the size of land Blue Origin already leases from NASA, enabling the Jeff Bezos-led company to establish “programs complimentary to those constructed on the adjacent North Campus,” according to the documents. Blue will build 270- and 313-foot variants of New Glenn rockets in the massive blue-and-white factory on the north campus, which will launch no sooner than 2021.
“The facilities will provide for the manufacture and provisioning of commercial space launch vehicles,” the St. Johns River Water Management District documents read. “The proposed Phase 1 development shall include site development for building construction (Warehouse) and site preparations for subsequent future construction.”
Construction is expected to begin in July with a wrap up of the final phase – the expandable warehouse – in March 2020.
Blue Origin’s media team did not respond to an inquiry about the land, which the company leased directly from NASA for 50 years. The total payments over that period will equal $20.3 million according to the final lease signed in December, which was also obtained by FLORIDA TODAY.
Building out a complex and finding a need for additional capacity isn’t uncommon in the spaceflight industry.
“As they get closer to what they do for a living, they’re finding it’s going to be a little bit bigger and need a little more space than what they had anticipated,” said Dale Ketcham, chief of strategic alliances for Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency. “But that’s not unique to them or the space industry.”
The 89.53-acre site will also include:
- A warehouse that could be expanded in the future
- Roads for transporting New Glenn rockets
- Roads and parking for trucks and smaller vehicles
- Landscaping and lighting improvements
About 10 miles away from these facilities, Blue Origin is also ramping up work at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 36, which is leased from the Air Force. New Glenn rockets will eventually be transported from the KSC campuses to LC-36 for liftoff, but launch control for missions will be handled from the top floor of the New Glenn factory itself.
The private rocketry company founded in Kent, Washington in 2000 is bankrolled by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person. Its technology isn’t just limited to its own missions, however, as Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance will use Blue’s BE-4 engines for its upcoming Vulcan series of rockets.
Blue’s – and Bezos’ – vision for the future includes millions of people working and living in space. The hope is to tap into far-flung resources of the solar system, allowing Earth to remain preserved for future generations.