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Jeff Bezos to launch into space race: Can he compete with SpaceX?

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos's private spaceflight company, steps onto a Cape Canaveral launchpad.

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Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos (l.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott answer questions from reporters after a news conference unveiling the new Blue Origin rocket at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday. Mr. Bezos announced a $200 million investment to build the rockets and capsules in the state and launch them using the historic Launch Complex 36.

Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

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Move over SpaceX and Boeing, you have company in Cape Canaveral.

Jeff Bezos announced Tuesday that he’s moving his space company to Florida.

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Blue Origin, the Amazon founder’s company, is taking over a Cape Canaveral launch pad to develop rockets and launch them into space. SpaceX occupies a different launch complex less than a mile away. Boeing has a similar facility just steps away from SpaceX.

Mr. Bezos plans to shoot scientific payloads and people into space. These people could include astronauts, tourists, and the billionaire himself.

The Blue Origin ships to be developed at the Florida site are planned to reach at least to orbital heights of 250 miles. 

Blue Origin has already been working on an engine for its New Shepard spaceship. Partnering with United Launch Alliance, ULA, the company was performing tests at a Texas facility previously. The small New Shepard can read about 100 miles above Earth.

More than $200 million will be invested in Blue Origin’s new rocket manufacturing facility. 

The move to the Florida launch site brings Blue Origin in closer competition with SpaceX, as well as its ally, ULA. 

Bezos and SpaceX founder and fellow technology powerhouse Elon Musk are now head-to-head in the space race.

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The rival space companies have met before, when both first sought launch space in Cape Canaveral. Soon after SpaceX submitted a bid to use one of the launch pads at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center there, Blue Origin sought to share the complex with their competitor. 

Blue Origin lost their protest over negotiations to share the launch pad in 2013 and SpaceX stepped onto the pad in 2014.

But now both companies have their own space in the historical Cape Canaveral. To top it off, although ULA and Blue Origin are ally’s, they are still in competition in the overall space race.

This privatized space race kicked off after NASA shut down their space shuttle program. With no manned-space program, issues arise for astronauts heading for the International Space Station. 

As The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2014:

Currently the only way for astronauts to reach even the International Space Station is through Russia. Since the Space Shuttle program shut down in 2011, the Russian space program is the only one in the world capable of manned spaceflight. Each US astronaut heading to the ISS sits in a $71 million seat.

But tensions between the US and Russia over the Ukraine crisis have put into question Russia's relationship with NASA.

When US sanctions threatened that partnership earlier this year, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin didn't hesitate to point out America's reliance on Russian rockets. He took to Twitter, writing, "After analysing the sanctions against our space industry I suggest the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline."

With bouncing to the ISS as a physical impossibility, private companies like Blue Origin, ULA, or SpaceX may be the solution.

This report uses material from the Associated Press and Reuters.


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