Blue Origin announces new Florida spaceport

The Blue Origin New Shepard being tested earlier this year - image courtesy of Blue Origin.
The Blue Origin New Shepard being tested earlier this year - image courtesy of Blue Origin.

Private spaceflight company Blue Origin has today announced plans to build a large launch facility for its spacecraft in Florida.

Using part of the Cape Canaveral site which has historically been associated with space exploration, Blue Origin hopes to utilize the facility for both manufacturing and rocket launches.

“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,” said Jeff Bezos, CEO of Blue Origin.

In total the company reportedly plans to invest at least $200m in the site, an investment which was recently submitted for approval to the local government.

Blue Origin plans to use the Launch Complex 36 pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a former launch site for a number of important space missions.

“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,” said Bezos.

The company has explained that by locating its planned launch site in close proximity to where it manufactures its spacecraft, it can ease the challenges of transporting and launching larger craft.

Blue Origin’s current main project is a spacecraft which it calls the ‘New Shepard’. Designed to capitalise on the growing market for space tourism, this spacecraft will take groups of 6 paying customers on sub-orbital flights into space.

As well, the New Shepard is designed to fully reusable, with its booster stage able to land vertically back at the launch-pad in a similar fashion to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 craft.

The company is planning on launching the first rockets from the new Florida site by the end of the decade.

Collaboration with ULA

Blue Origin is also working with another larger player in the private spaceflight industry, ULA, on their new Vulcan rocket.

This rocket will feature Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines which the company plans to build at its new Florida facility.

“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,” Jeff Bezos said.