Jeff Bezos is a busy man who owns a number of business ventures apart from him pride and joy, Amazon. One of his side businesses, Blue Origin LLC, is a space-transportation company that is making huge strides in the rocket industry.
It recently signed a contract to supply rocket engines to its potential competitor, United Launch Alliance LLC. After ecommerce, could satellite launch become the next industry Bezos is planning to disrupt?
Deal with United Launch Alliance
On Thursday, United Launch Alliance LLC announced that, after talking to a number of reliable competitors, it chose Blue Origin to make the BE-4 engines for its Vulcan rocker.
ULA is owned by Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. – two of the biggest players in the aviation industry – and specializes in launching satellites into the orbit mainly belonging to the U.S. military.
ULA’s CEO and president, Tory Bruno, said in a statement that he is confident that with an alliance with Blue Origin, the company will be able to produce far more superior and cost-efficient rockets. He added that the company is planning to launch its first rocket in 2020.
Many are speculating that Blue Origin decided to sign a deal with its competitor in order to reach its ultimate goal of launching its own military rockets one day. The company’s powerful rocket engine, called New Glenn, will eventually be used to lift its own heavy launchers into the Earth’s atmosphere.
Making Strides in Satellite Industry
Bruno didn’t reveal specs of price of the new engine during the press conference. Despite the company’s self-imposed deadline of 2020, many experts say that it is highly unlikely that the Vulcan rockets will be able to begin operating before the mid-2020s.
Even if the rocket manufacturing process finishes on time, it could take an additional few years to test the New Glenn booster and obtain certification for it.
The Pentagon especially chose the engine design proposed by Blue Origin because it wanted to end its dependence on Russian-made RD-180 engines which are currently being used to power Atlas V rockets owned by United Launch.
ULA says that the ambitious design of the Vulcan rocket will allow the propulsion of 3.8 million pounds in the air. Blue Origin is already setting up a production plant to build the New Glenn and the project is expected to create over 20,000 jobs.
CEO of Blue Origin, Bob Smith, said that the new project marks a huge milestone for the company and his team is excited to be a part of the mission.
With the Air Force increasing spending on low-cost rockets by billions of dollars, satellite-launch companies are stepping up their rocket game to acquire more contracts. Currently on the forefront of the race are Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s Space X, United Launch and Innovation Systems owned by the prestigious Northrop Grumman Corp.
Entrepreneurs Take Over Aviation
It was the likes of Richard Branson and Elon Musk who began a revolution in both military and commercial sectors of the space industry. Now more entrepreneurs including Bezos are jumping into the rocket business.
SpaceX is already ahead of the curve and has launched a number of satellites for the Pentagon. But all three entrepreneurs have eyes set on the ultimate prize: creating a super-fast commercial spacecraft that can create a new tourism industry in space.
Musk has openly challenged other players in the industry to see which company gets to be the first one to send a manned flight to the Red Planet.
Jeff Bezos is currently the richest man on the planet and has a personal fortune of more than $150 billion. The billionaire CEO says that he has funded Blue Origin entirely with his own money and won’t need to turn to investors to build the new BE-4 engines. Bezos adds roughly $1 billion to his space venture every year.
ULA and Blue Origin have been negotiating over the price, delivery and production of the engines for months.
According to sources familiar with the deal, ULA showed hesitation in accepting a deal with its prospective competitor for an engine that is crucial for its future rockets.