by Alan Boyle
Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has struck a deal with Florida’s spaceport authority to build a $60 million rocket testing and refurbishment facility near Cape Canaveral.
The facility would be constructed at Space Florida’s Exploration Park to provide support services for the $205 million, 750,000-square-foot New Glenn rocket manufacturing factory that Blue Origin already has built in Florida. Orbital-class New Glenn rockets are due to enter service by as early as 2020 and will be sent into space from Launch Complex 36, which is being leased from Space Florida.
Blue Origin is designing the New Glenn rocket to have a reusable first-stage booster, and the new facility would be where recovered boosters are refurbished and tested. The company’s plans were the subject of a Space Florida board meeting last month, and came to light this week in an Orlando Sentinel report.
The board approved a plan to use state tax dollars to reimburse Blue Origin for up to $4 million in common infrastructure costs such as roads and utilities, the Sentinel reported.
Documents provided to the board indicate that Blue Origin is planning to spend $60 million on the new facility, and create about 50 jobs with an estimated annual wage of $95,000.
Bezos, who is considered the world’s richest individual with a net worth of around $160 billion, recently said that he planned to spend “just over a billion dollars” on the New Glenn program next year. The privately held company has already made several deals for satellite launches in the 2020s.
In addition to its Florida facilities, Blue Origin has a headquarters and production facility in Kent, Wash., as well as a test site and suborbital launch complex in West Texas. It’s also gearing up to build a $200 million, 200,000-square-foot BE-4 rocket engine factory in Huntsville, Ala.