Blue Origin Announces Production, Launch Operations in Florida

Blue_Origin_logo1CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (Blue Origin PR) — Today we announced that we’ll be flying our orbital launch vehicle from Florida. Cape Canaveral has long been a gateway to humankind’s greatest adventures. As a kid, I was inspired by the giant Saturn V missions that roared to life from these shores. Now we are thrilled to be coming to the Sunshine State for a new era of exploration.

Our new home on the Space Coast is anchored by the launch site at Complex 36. During its 43 years of service, 145 launches thundered into space from this site. The Mariner missions – the first U.S. spacecraft to visit other planets – lifted off from Complex 36. So did Pioneer 10, the first spacecraft to travel through the asteroid belt; Surveyor 1, the first U.S. spacecraft to land softly on the Moon; and multiple weather, communications and national defense payloads hopped their rides to space from LC-36. The site saw its last launch in 2005 and the pad has stood silent for more than 10 years – too long. We can’t wait to fix that.

One of the unique things about our Florida operations is that we aren’t just launching here, we’re building here. At Exploration Park, we’ll have a 21st century production facility where we’ll focus on manufacturing our reusable fleet of orbital launchers and readying them for flight again and again. Locating vehicle assembly near our launch site eases the challenge of processing and transporting really big rockets.

We’ll be launching from here later this decade. You will hear us before you see us. Our American-made BE-4 engine – the power behind our orbital launch vehicle – will be acceptance tested here. Our BE-4 engine will also help make history as it powers the first flight of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan rocket.

Residents of the Space Coast have enjoyed front-row seats to the future for nearly 60 years. Our team’s passion for pioneering is the perfect fit for a community dedicated to forging new frontiers. Keep watching.

Gradatim Ferociter!

Jeff Bezos

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    CH4/LOX first stage. LH2/LOX second stage. FLyback VTVL first stage. That sounds really technically challenging (Don’t forget Space X has evolved their system out of flight heritage parts, and still it does not work full up in the intended environment.), and expensive. LH2 is about as hard as it gets. Blue origin is a company that does not fly a lot. And they are teamed with groups of people who don’t fly and think that’s a good thing. Given Mr Bezo’s apparent patience with developing space systems, deep pockets, and the no rush attitude of his partners in government. I expect a slow development cycle. I’ll be happy to be wrong, and see two nimble space companies out there. Heck, I’m happy to see this even if it takes a decade to bring online. Let’s see what shakes out of this one, best of luck and success to Mr Bezos and team.

  • Aarti Pole

    Doug, are you able to do an interview on the Blue Origin announcement today? please email me if so – aarti(dot)pole(at)globalnews(dot)ca

    Thank you!

  • amnong

    Offset the onslaught of Amazon working condition with a space announcement, are we?

  • amnong

    Offsetting the onslaught on Amazon regarding working conditions with some space announcement, are we?

  • DavidR2015

    Don’t forget that Blue Origin will try to evolve their orbital launch vehicle from their sub-orbital vehicle. Also they have an unfunded SAA with NASA that they can leverage to access some technical expertise. These things should help.
    Having said that, flying by the end of the decade sounds ambitious to me and quite tight timescales, but I’m happy to be proved wrong on that.

  • Flatley

    I don’t think it’s accurate to characterize LH2 using the phrase “as hard as it gets,” indeed, as far as US production goes, LOX/LH2 is certainly the combination we have the most experience with, going back to the SSME and followed by the RS-68.

    I’m not a propulsion engineer, but most propulsion engineers I know would rather spend a lifetime working on LH2 systems than a day working with, say, hypergolics. And as far as the upper stage goes, is there really a better choice than LOX/LH2 from an efficiency standpoint? (I’m legitimately asking, since, like I said, I’m not a propulsion engineer). 450 seconds (or more) is tough to beat.

  • TimAndrews868

    I get where you’re coming from – getting a two stage orbital rocket flying is a huge task on its own, let alone trying to vertically land stages as well. It’s important to remember though, today isn’t day one for Blue Origin. They’ve been very secretive and may have the engineering done and ready to start fabrication. And then of course they may have a decade’s worth of engineering to go.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    That I think will be the crux of how long it will really take. They have done a lot of on targeted sub systems like the LH2 engine. That’s a biggie for sure.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Liquid hydrogen requires a major investment in infrastructure to manufacture, store, and service the fuel to the vehicle. You can note that nobody has yet to experience a major reduction in cost of dealing with the fuel. But maybe Bule will do just that. They have been servicing and operating their engine for at least 4 years now. So I’ll give them the benefit in believing any cost estimates, as they obviously are not coming into the problem of LH2 operations fresh. It also introduces operational headaches with the inability to vent near the vehicle (Same problem for CH4), and the requirement for high volume tanks because of LH2’s low power density. There are other problems like changing the physical qualities of metals exposed to high concentration of H2. Namely, it makes them brittle. Like you, I’m no expert with direct experience. I was helping a university program to prepare for a bid on a LH2 system and myself and the cryogenics facility started going through just how were were going to obtain, store, and move LH2 in quantities measured in the 100’s of liters. Nothing about it was easy or cheap.

    Meanwhile RP-1 acts pretty much the same in weather from the polar regions, to the equator, and venting LOX to the atmosphere is not an issue.

  • Mr. Bezos wants to go to the moon. Methane and hydrogen are (vastly) different enough to make them complementary.

    The volumetrics of hydrogen does have some advantages, as long as you are thinking critically about what comes after launch.

  • Larry J

    indeed, as far as US production goes, LOX/LH2 is certainly the combination we have the most experience with, going back to the SSME and followed by the RS-68.
    Actually, America’s experience with LOX/LH2 goes back much further than that. The RL-10 engine used in the Centaur upper stage dates back to the early 1960s. Also, the Saturn V first and second stages were powered using J-2 engines (5 on the 2nd stage and 1 on the third stage) that burned LOX/LH2. America has over 50 years of experience flying rockets using that propellant combination.

  • Tom Billings

    “some space announcement …?” …….Huh?

    This brings another impulse of added momentum to spaceflight markets.

    Oh! You’re treating this as a Bezos propaganda article?

    Why bother? Bezos is doing 2 things, one in Space, and one in retail marketing.

    I have little interest in Amazon. I have *lots* of interest in spaceflight. Most people reading this are the same. If you want to talk about Amazon, please do so on some Amazon forum.

  • Douglas Messier

    Sorry, I went back to bed after the announcement. It was pretty early here, and it was actually rainy and chilly outside, which is rare in Mojave and a good reason to go back to bed.

  • Aerospike

    There have been issues regarding the working conditions at Amazon
    (especially in logistics) for such a long time, that pretty much any
    other announcement by Bezos in the last few years could be disregarded with your argument.

    I don’t think that there is a connection here.

  • Why is it that everyone wants to recreate DC-X? While the idea is certainly cool, the physics and (current) technology aren’t helping any. It seems like THE most difficult way to tackle the problem.

    (yes, the benefits would be huge, but rocket history is littered with the corpses of programs that hinged on 1 gee-whiz technology)

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    What’s the benefit of methane on the Moon? Even assuming you get water there, is there a known source for carbon? I could see using a form of propane and NOX as they store very well for long periods in tanks easy to make, and can be easily electrically heated just before use to any range of tank pressures. Methane makes sense for Mars if you want to do in situ propellant production.

  • The benefit of methane is that it is a ready source of carbon dioxide and water. Regardless, any methane powered first stage is not going to the moon. This stuff has all been figured out by space cadets years ago. You really need to work on your critical thinking skills.

  • Larry J

    The issues and challenges you cite for working with LH are real but hardly new. Work on the Centaur upper stage began in the late 1950s and the first successful flight happened in November of 1963. LH/LOX is especially suited for upper stages due to the high Isp. Apollo used LH/LOX for the 2nd and 3rd stages of the Saturn V for that reason. The Shuttle and Delta IV took LH/LOX to the next level. Japan also uses it for their H-2 booster and ESA uses it on the Arianne V. India has also developed an upper stage using those propellants. Yes, the challenges are real but they’re well understood.
    Blue Origins has already developed their BE-3 engine using those propellants. That’s one of the most challenging parts of their new rocket. They’re working on the Methane/LOX BE-4 engine for the first stage. This is relatively new territory but others are working on it as well (Russia and SpaceX).

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    It’s that time of the month again isn’t it Thomas?

  • I always have time for fellow space cadets who don’t seem to have a clue.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I never said they are new. Systems using LH2 are not any cheaper after 50+ years of working with the stuff. My overall claim would be that Blue will suffer in price comparison with Space X so long as they put a H2/LOX system against a LOX/RP-1. Let’s watch to see how the two sysems compete against each other. They’ll settle the argument for us.

  • TimAndrews868

    I suspect the appeal is that it’s the simplest approach. It relies on the same engines for boost as for landing, doesn’t involve dunking the booster in water, involves little extra hardware (compared to most other recovery concepts) and keeps the landing stresses on the same axis as the launch stresses. The Gee-Whiz technology it depends on – powered landing, is something that was pioneered and successfully achieved in the 1960s and has been researched and further demonstrated with numerous test-bed vehicles since.

  • I know this can be taken snidely, but I’m being serious when I say this: the “simplest approach” to what? What’s the goal? Is the goal to simply land vertically? to reuse the vehicle? to lower cost? to look cool? to fulfill a childhood dream? to simplify the system? to refly the same stage multiple times a day?
    And while lots of groups (SpaceX, the Lunar Lander Xprize folks, the LEM folks, the Harrier and F-35B people) have done subsonic VTVL, it seems that super/hypersonic flying back IS a gee-whiz technology.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    I always liked your arguments put thusly about SSTO. Why do a job with a Lmambrogini when two stacked VW bugs will do the job?

  • savuporo

    They are probably 80% done, 90% to go as any other hardware engineering project.

  • savuporo

    Is there a better choice from efficiency standpoint ? Well, a certain Valentin Glushko thought there was, liquid hydrogen with liquid fluorine.
    They got multiple iterations of their engines running back in the 60ies, but before anyone blew up any large facilities or severely injured any large parts of populations, the combination was determined to be workable, but not operable. And that’s a good thing.

    The question whether deeply cryogenic LH2 is an operationally workable and practical fuel has obviously been answered. Whether it is economical, has not, yet.

  • I’ll give credit where it’s due, that was the keen insight of Keith Goodfellow.


    The new orbital rocket

    Sneak peek!

    Finally SpaceX has someone really trying to beat them!

  • Aerospike

    From what we now from SpaceXs previous landing/soft-water-touchdown attempts, the super/hypersonic part doesn’t seem to be the biggest challenge (since that part worked every time so far, of course it didn’t went back all the way to the launch site).

  • windbourne

    considering the fact that bezos owns BO, and not Amazon, there is no connection.

  • TimAndrews868

    “What’s the goal?” To significantly reduce cost through vehicle re-use. And yes, cost reduction remains to be seen with reuse labor and time requirements being unproven as well as equipment lifespan.

  • windbourne

    so on and so on.

    Launchers are coming.
    Now, we need for CONgress to do their GD jobs and fund NASA to expand.
    If America expands NOW into 2 or more private space stations, then we will see a huge resurgence in space exploration. Most likely, it will be around the world, not just America.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    How are they private space stations if they receive NASA funding ? That reminds me of the idiot who wants NASA to fund a SpaceX test of a flight around the moon. Private companies can fund their own missions, or find some other company like Google or Apple that has a few extra Billions of cash they don’t need.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Where do you think Bezos gets the money to fund BO ?? From loyal Amazon Prime members like me, of course.

  • Larry J

    A liquid fluorine engine has a high theoretical Isp but the propellant combination is nasty. Sometimes, the increase in efficiency just isn’t worth it. From this NASA source:

    Liquid fluorine is a very low temperature substance, comparable with liquid oxygen, and is highly toxic and corrosive as well. Furthermore, its products of combustion are extremely corrosive and dangerous; hence, the use of fluorine raises problems in testing and operating rocket engines.

    The combustion product is hydrogen fluoride which is highly corrosive and toxic. More info is available here.

  • Larry J

    When they started work on the Centaur upper stage and the RL-10 engine back in the 1950s, all of this was new. They worked very hard to solve the problems and the solutions are well known. In that regard, it’s much easier and cheaper to do something that has been done many times before than to do it for the first time.
    The proof, as always, will be in the flying. Let’s come back in 10 years or so and see how things look then.

  • savuporo

    Yeah, i’ve read about all sorts of fluorine stunts in the past. I’m glad its not popular. My point is exactly that, fluorine is horrible to work with, whereas LH2 is barely manageable, CH4 and kerosene are AOK whereas IPA is probably the easiest.
    Question is how much performance for nastiness does anyone want to trade, and LH2 probably isnt much of a sweet spot unless really needed for interplanetary voyages.

  • windbourne

    That is HIS money, not amazon. Totally different companies.

  • windbourne

    How funny.
    You scream about the gov spending a bit of money to stimulate a new technology, but for some god awful reason I cannot figure out, you think that YOU have the right to dictate how a man spends their money.

  • delphinus100

    Though some derided it as ‘single stage to 30,000 feet, getting some actual experience in those areas is what DC-X was meant to do.

    Much as Grasshopper and F9R were, years later.

  • Saturn13

    SpaceX has 4000 workers. BO will have 300. They must be only an assembly plant. Everything will be built elsewhere.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    I have no complaints about Jeff Bezos or Amazon. Amazon is my shopping site of choice, and my first stop when looking to buy almost anything online. I like the no nonsense approach that BO is taking as well. They only need to be in the press when there is something to announce. I also appreciated his efforts in recovery of the F-1 engines from the sea floor.

    Eli Callaway is other hero of mine. Success in 3 completely different areas (cars, winery, and golf clubs). I stop by his Winery in Temecula every chance I get.

    I’m trying to remember the name of the guy who made millions in video games, and spent his spare millions on a space projects. Unfortunately, I think his play money ran out and the company shutdown not too long ago.

  • Hydrogen is definitely the sweet spot if your goal is to colonize deep space. It has the volume, the Isp, it evaporates cleanly and is directly convertible to distilled water with other valuable byproducts (heat and electricity come to mind) and it’s relatively easy to make. And once at location in deep space, you really don’t need it and thus you don’t need to store it anymore, obviating its metallurgical disadvantages, which then opens up the space that you were storing it to be … space.

    These are concepts that people without critical thinking skills just will never understand, which is why I wrote it up for you.

  • windbourne

    So, you think that NASA agreeing to put say 2-4 astronauts in private space stations for say 2-4 years is wrong? Why?

  • Vladislaw
  • Vladislaw

    LOL … so any private company that takes a dime of Federal money is no longer a private company?

    If NASA was to L E A S E space like say 1/3 of a module of a BA330 which is advertised for 25 million for two months that wouldn’t be “funding” that would be paying for services rendered.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Because then you are going to expect NASA to pay to launch that BA-330, and then certify it. Then you also want NASA to pay for logistics and crew flights to this “private” station. Really, you want the station privately owned, but everything bought and paid for by NASA. How about proving there is an actual business case for a “private” space station WITHOUT NASA Involvement. NASA already has a space station that is under utilized, and doesn’t need a replacement for over 10 years.

  • Vladislaw

    Bull… Bigelow would be insane to utilize a NASA launch vehicle it would price him out of the game. He will utilize SpaceX’s launch vehicles. He is a private concern he doesn’t NASA to certifiy crap for his soverign clients.

  • Vladislaw

    Bigelow is investing 400 million of his own funds and already is building the factory. the ISS is not an open commerical station. it doesn’t matter how big your checkbook is you can not goto the ISS through NASA. He has signed MOU’s from seven countries interested in leasing space.