Date
23 March 2017
Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle ascends near Van Horn, Texas. Blue Origin is expected to announce new initiatives and customers. Photo: WSJ
Blue Origin’s reusable New Shepard space vehicle ascends near Van Horn, Texas. Blue Origin is expected to announce new initiatives and customers. Photo: WSJ

Bezos to unveil further plans for private space exploration

The burgeoning space-transportation company owned by Amazon.com Inc. chairman Jeff Bezos this week is expected to announce some customers and new initiatives.

It is the latest step toward its long-term goal of building rockets powerful enough to penetrate deep into the solar system, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing industry officials.

The moves by the typically secretive Bezos are anticipated to disclose further details about Blue Origin LLC’s strategy to create a family of reusable rockets initially intended to take tourists on suborbital voyages, then propel spacecraft into Earth’s orbit and eventually blast both manned and robotic missions to the Moon and various planets.

Plans for heavy-lift boosters previously unveiled by Bezos, including one version roughly half as powerful as the iconic Saturn V rockets that lifted Apollo astronauts to the moon, ultimately could emerge as rivals with powerful rockets already under development by fellow billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is working on its own version of a deep-space booster and capsule.

The initial test flight of SpaceX’s long-delayed Falcon Heavy, which would become the world’s most potent operational rocket, is scheduled for later this year. NASA’s much larger booster, called SLS, is scheduled for its maiden flight in 2018.

So far, Bezos has been less specific about timetables to demonstrate the reliability of his emerging heavy-lift rocket variant, called New Glenn, after the late astronaut and US senator, John Glenn.

Amazon’s founder has been even less specific about a next-generation rocket on the drawing board, dubbed New Armstrong, in memory of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to set foot on the Moon. That booster is intended for travel deep into the solar system.

Both self-described “space geeks” with ambitious visions of helping humans establish large-scale settlements beyond Earth in their lifetimes, Bezos and Musk have jousted good-naturedly on social media in the past about competing to land the first spent booster vertically back on Earth. Bezos did it first after a suborbital mission, but Musk accomplished the feat by landing the main portion of a Falcon 9 rocket that delivered a payload into orbit.

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