Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, is set to announce in September a new rocket manufacturing and launch facility in Florida.
Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is set to announce in mid-September that it will put a new rocket-manufacturing facility just south of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and will launch the rockets from nearby Cape Canaveral.
The new facility will create 330 jobs at an average annual wage of $89,000, and Blue Origin will invest between $205 million and $220 million, according to details provided to the Board of Commissioners in Brevard County, where the site is located.
The board will vote Tuesday on an $8 million incentive grant for Blue Origin. An additional $10 million is already earmarked by the Florida Legislature.
The Brevard County commissioners have referred to the project only as “Project Panther.” But Florida’s senior U.S. senator, Bill Nelson, identified the company as Blue Origin in an April interview with the Space Coast newspaper Florida Today, which has closely followed the site-selection process.
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A week ago, Blue Origin invited media to Cape Canaveral on Sept. 15, saying Bezos will make “a significant announcement regarding the emerging commercial launch industry.”
Tuesday’s Brevard County vote is merely to finalize an agreement approved in May.
Blue Origin did not respond to a request for comment.
Blue Origin’s choice is a big win for Florida. Even though it’s the historic center of the government-funded U.S. space industry, until now it has not attracted the largest new entrants in the burgeoning commercial-space business.
A year ago, billionaire Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX, chose the Brownsville area of south Texas as his launch site, with the state offering more than $15 million in incentives.
Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent, where Bezos has gathered a 350-strong engineering team that does research and development and builds prototype rockets and engines.
In April, Blue Origin successfully tested its New Shepard suborbital rocket from its remote launch site in West Texas.
The company is now designing a much bigger rocket that will go into orbit, powered by a new Blue Origin BE4 engine fueled by a combination of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas.
Washington state was never a contender for the Blue Origin’s rocket facility, because of its latitude and the need for a large uninhabited area — like ocean — to the east, the direction in which most rockets are launched to take advantage of the Earth’s spin.
Alex Pietsch, director of Gov. Jay Inslee’s aerospace office, said Blue Origin’s headquarters and R&D work will remain here, and that may still provide “future opportunities for additional manufacturing” in the state.