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Blue Origin has big plans for Florida expansion

Blue Origin factory
The Blue Origin space venture aims to add to the massive facility it’s already built near Cape Canaveral in Florida. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has filed plans for expanding its Florida rocket manufacturing facility onto a vacant 90-acre plot of land next door, Florida Today reports.

The newspaper reported today that the plans for a “South Campus” on Space Commerce Way, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, are laid out in documents filed with the St. Johns River Water Management District. The land would be used to establish “programs complimentary to those constructed on the adjacent North Campus,” the documents say.

Construction on the new site is due to begin in July, with the final building phase to be wrapped up a year from now. The buildings would provide space for manufacturing and provisioning of commercial launch vehicles, Florida Today reported. The site would include a warehouse that could be expanded later.

In response to GeekWire’s inquiry, Blue Origin said it had nothing to add to the Florida Today report.

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Firefly Aerospace gets a Florida launch site

Firefly rocket plant
An architectural rendering shows Firefly Aerospace’s future rocket production facility at Exploration Park on Florida’s Space Coast. (Firefly Aerospace Illustration)

Firefly Aerospace, a Texas-based launch venture that was lifted out of bankruptcy, says it’s struck a deal with Space Florida to establish business operations at Cape Canaveral Spaceport.

The terms of the newly executed agreement call for Firefly to build a 150,000-square-foot rocket manufacturing facility at Space Florida’s Exploration Park and set up a launch facility at Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 20.

Firefly says it will invest $52 million in the project and bring more than 200 jobs to Florida. Space Florida has agreed to match up to $18.9 million of Firefly’s infrastructure investments via the Florida Department of Transportation Spaceport Improvement Program.

Other ventures with facilities at Exploration Park include OneWeb Satellites and Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture.

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Relativity will use historic launch pad at the Cape

Relativity space launch
An artist’s conception shows Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 16. (Relativity Space Illustration)

Relativity Space, the California-based rocket startup that got its start in Seattle, has won Air Force clearance to build its Florida launch facility on a site that saw service during NASA’s Apollo and Gemini programs in the 1960s.

The agreement gives Relativity Space exclusive use of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 16 — which was first used for Titan missile launches, and then for Gemini crew processing and static firing tests of the Apollo service module’s propulsion engine under NASA’s supervision.

After Apollo, the site was returned to the Air Force and used for test-firing Pershing ballistic missiles. Launch Complex 16 has been largely dormant since the Pershing program was deactivated in 1988 to comply with the U.S.-Soviet Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

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Blue Origin plans rocket service center in Florida

New Glenn landing
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket booster landing on a recovery ship. (Blue Origin Illustration via YouTube)

Blue Origin, the space venture created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has struck a deal with Florida’s spaceport authority to build a $60 million rocket testing and refurbishment facility near Cape Canaveral.

The facility would be constructed at Space Florida’s Exploration Park to provide support services for the $205 million, 750,000-square-foot New Glenn rocket manufacturing factory that Blue Origin already has built in Florida. Orbital-class New Glenn rockets are due to enter service by as early as 2020 and will be sent into space from Launch Complex 36, which is being leased from Space Florida.

Blue Origin is designing the New Glenn rocket to have a reusable first-stage booster, and the new facility would be where recovered boosters are refurbished and tested. The company’s plans were the subject of a Space Florida board meeting last month, and came to light this week in an Orlando Sentinel report.

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Blue Origin ramps up Florida rocket facility

Propellant tanks
Tanks for liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas, the propellants to be used by Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, are lined up at Launch Complex 36 in Florida. (Blue Origin Photo via Twitter)

Blue Origin hasn’t put up the “Grand Opening” sign yet, but there’s clearly business going on at the Florida rocket facilities built by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ space venture.

The latest sign came today, when Blue Origin tweeted out a picture of propellant tanks being delivered to Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is destined to host Blue Origin’s orbital-class New Glenn rocket.

“Starting to look more and more like a launch pad!” the tweet read.

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Concrete poured for Blue Origin space complex

Image: Blue Origin construction work
Workers pour concrete at the site of Blue Origin’s rocket factory in Florida. (Credit: Space Florida)

Work is progressing on the facility in Florida where Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture plans to build its orbital spaceships.

Bezos called attention to the groundbreaking milestone for the 750,000-square-foot rocket factory in June. Today, Space Florida, the state development agency that’s leasing the property and Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 36 to Blue Origin, tweeted that concrete is being poured for the campus’ first building.

The $200 million manufacturing and launch facility at Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park is expected to open by early 2018 and employ about 300 people.

That’s in addition to the folks who work at Blue Origin’s headquarters and production facility in Kent, Wash., and at its suborbital launch complex in West Texas. The company says it has about 700 employees today.

Blue Origin is currently focusing on its suborbital space effort. So far it’s conducted four fully successful uncrewed tests of its reusable, hydrogen-fueled New Shepard spaceship, which is built in Kent and flown in Texas.

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Jeff Bezos will unveil Florida launch plans

Image: Jeff Bezos
Amazon’s billionaire founder, Jeff Bezos, inspects Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas before a test flight in April. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is heading to Cape Canaveral next month to make a “significant announcement regarding the emerging commercial launch industry” — most likely about plans for his Blue Origin space venture to build and launch rockets on Florida’s Space Coast.

The media invitation went out this week for the Sept. 15 event at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. No further details were provided about the subject of the announcement, but Blue Origin has been working for years to secure a Florida facility.

Bezos’ privately financed venture aims to send tourists and researchers to the edge of space in a vertical-launch-and-landing suborbital vehicle called New Shepard. An uncrewed prototype blasted off for its first developmental test flight in April at Blue Origin’s West Texas rocket range. The company is also working on an orbital launch system, with the aim of winning NASA contracts to ferry crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Developing that system is expected to be the focus in Florida.

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