Bezos throws money and engineers to develop a rocket in connection with the acceleration of the space race

    Translation, original available at Seattle (Reuters) link

    - Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has to make more and more efforts to have his private space company switch from a startup to full-fledged production mode, which some people familiar with the project say about that the launch of a heavy rocket, originally planned for 2020, can move to the right.

    Blue Origin has hired hundreds of engineers over the past three years and continues to increase their number at such a rate that one of the employees called them “beyond the limits”. According to one important customer, the company, located in Kent, Washington, is counting on doubling its staff to 3,000 employees in the next two to three years.

    Such urgency is associated with the development of the New Glenn rocket. Heavy booster, designed for the withdrawal of satellites and in the future of people into orbit, is key to the company's plans to win profitable military and commercial contracts.


    The first step of New Glenn will be reusable, which is a key factor in Bezos’s strategy to ensure low operating costs and high launch frequency. Guide Blue Origin has publicly stated that test flights will begin within two years.

    However, whether Blue Origin will be able to achieve the stated goal is unclear.

    According to anonymous sources familiar with the project, despite the fact that 2020 is not far off, the engineers of the company are still refining the details of the rocket design and have just begun to manufacture components that are still to be tested extremely. The requirement of anonymity for sources is caused by a ban on communication with the media.

    Blue Origin privately acknowledged in conversations with the French satellite company Eutelsat SA [ETLXCE.UL] - its first customer New Glenn - that the time frame for 2020 is “very aggressive,” says a source with direct knowledge of the negotiations between the companies.

    Firms agreed to launch a geostationary satellite in the period 2021-2022, so Blue Origin has room for maneuver in the event that a test launch occurs later than planned, the source added.

    Johann Leroy, Deputy General Manager of Eutelsat, declined to go into details of negotiations with Blue Origin, however, he noted that he was optimistic about New Glenn and plans to launch the satellite by the end of 2022.

    “Of course, I cannot guarantee that they will be able to withstand the stated deadlines, but we are sure that there will be no significant changes,” said Leroy.

    Blue Origin spokeswoman did not answer the question about hiring employees, strategies or competitor issues. Private companies keep their mouths shut about New Glenn production and future plans to bring it to market.

    According to analysts, a successful launch in 2020 will give Blue Origin excellent opportunities to compete with modern and promising missiles, which are expected to enter the market in the next few years.

    Rivals include United Launch Alliance aerospace alliance - including Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin; French ArianeGroup is a joint venture between Airbus and Safran. Japan and China are also likely to develop reusable rockets.

    However, 18 years after its founding, Blue Origin found that it was lagging behind a competitor closer to home: SpaceX.

    Founded by Tesla Inc executive director Elon Musk, a company registered in Hawthorne, California, turned the space industry over with its relatively inexpensive reusable Falcon 9 missiles. SpaceX completed over 50 successful Falcon launches and entered into contracts for billions of dollars, including deals with NASA and the Department of Defense USA.

    The stunning launch of the newest rocket, the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful launch vehicle in the world at the moment, caught a huge audience in February.

    Musk predicted the “end of the game” for other creators of heavy rockets, in the event of a successful launch of FH.

    However, the good news for Blue Origin is that the demand for satellite launch services is projected to grow rapidly.

    According to Marco Caceres, senior space analyst at Fairfax (part of the Virginia-based Teal Group), about 800 small satellites will be launched annually from 2020, more than double the average for the past decade.

    “If New Glenn is ready in the next two years, Blue Origin will be able to take advantage of this window of opportunity,” he said.

    Like Musk, Bezos is passionate about the prospect for humanity to live and work in space.

    Thanks to the success of the Amazon online store, Bezos (the richest man in the world) sells $ 1 billion worth of shares annually to finance his interplanetary dreams.

    He deployed Blue Origin in a warehouse about 20 miles (32 km) south of Seattle. The company's motto, translated from Latin, means “step by step violently,” as a reference to Bezos’s conviction that success comes through steady, gradual progress.

    However, after almost two decades, and with the escalation of the private space race, Bezos intends to move closer to commercialization, three Blue Origin employees told Reuters.

    Part of this effort includes the sale of tourist excursions to the border with space on board another Blue Origin rocket, dubbed New Shepard, with ticket prices ranging from $ 200,000 to $ 300,000.

    Blue Origin, with its BE-4 engine, is also bidding to supply the United Launch Alliance engines for the Vulcan rocket under development, according to ULA.

    The recent recruitment festival mainly consisted of attracting talent for New Glenn and included among other things more than 60 engineers who had previously worked at SpaceX.

    Currently, Blue Origin has more than 1,500 employees, more than double the figures for early 2016, three employees said. It is expected that when New Glenn starts flying, its ranks will double again, said Johan Leroy. For comparison, SpaceX has more than 6,000 employees.

    Bezos has also invested over $ 200 million in a rocket manufacturing plant near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

    However, Leroy said he expects to see the New Glenn prototype not earlier than mid-2019.

    At the same time, NASA, the United States Air Force and satellite companies are focusing their business on SpaceX.

    Matt Desch, McLean CEO, owned by Virginia Iridium Communications Inc., SpaceX’s largest commercial client, told Reuters that Blue Origin is “a little less clear” in terms of its strategy.

    “No one disputes that with the investments that they make, they will ultimately come to success, but how and when they will become reliable is not clear,” said Desch.

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