© Reuters. Amazon founder, president, CEO, and chairman Jeff Bezos unveils his space company Blue Origin’s space exploration moon landing rocket called Blue Moon during a kick-off event in Washington.
By Eric M. Johnson SEATTLE (Reuters) – Released from his daily duties at Amazon.com Inc (NASDAQ :), Jeff Bezos is expected to increase pressure on his space company, Blue Origin, as he faces a crucial year and fierce competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, industry sources said. Bezos, 57, a lifelong space enthusiast and the world’s second-richest person behind Musk, said last week that he will step down as CEO of the e-commerce company to focus on personal projects. Blue Origin has lagged far behind SpaceX in orbital transportation, losing to SpaceX and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) in US national security launch contracts worth billions of dollars beginning in 2022. ULA is a joint venture of Boeing (NYSE 🙂 Co and Lockheed Martin Corp (NYSE :). Now, Blue Origin is fighting to win a competition with SpaceX and Dynetics to develop a new lunar lander for NASA’s potentially multi-million dollar effort to return humans to the moon in a few years. Dynetics is owned by Leidos Holdings (NYSE 🙂 Inc. Winning the lunar lander contract and executing its development are seen by Bezos and other executives as vital to Blue Origin establishing itself as a desired partner for NASA and also putting to Blue on the road to profit, people said. With limited revenue streams, Bezos has been selling about $ 1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund Blue, which he said in 2018 was “the most important job I’m doing.” A representative for Blue Origin declined to comment, but pointed to comments Bezos made last week when he said he would step down as Amazon’s CEO. He told Amazon employees that he will “remain committed to important Amazon initiatives,” but will also dedicate time to Blue Origin and various philanthropic and media “passions.” NASA is expected to beat out the lunar lander contest to just two companies by the end of April, adding pressure as Blue Origin solves problems like wasted millions of dollars in acquisitions and technical and production challenges, they said. the sources. One of the development challenges Blue has faced is getting the lander light and small enough to fit in a commercially available rocket, two people briefed on the development said. However, another source said that Blue has modified its design since it was awarded the initial contract last April and that its current design fits an additional number of available and future rockets, including Musk’s Falcon Heavy and Vulcan from Musk. ULA. “It‘s going to push Blue Origin into a higher gear,” said a senior industry source with knowledge of Blue’s operations. Bezos has already transplanted Amazon’s culture into Blue, enforcing similar “leadership principles” and starting meetings by reading documents silently, sources say. But an industry veteran said Bezos must take on an operational and practical role if he is to fix a host of problems such as bureaucratic processes, missed deadlines, high overhead costs and engineer churn that this source says have emerged as Blue Origin. seeks to move from development to production through multiple programs. A person familiar with the matter said Bezos has no desire to fully immerse himself in day-to-day operations and would instead prioritize major initiatives and new endeavors. In his latest Instagram posts, Bezos is seen climbing into a crew capsule in cowboy boots and sitting in his truck watching a rocket engine test, which he described as a “perfect night.” BEZOS VERSUS MUSK Founded in 2000, Kent, Washington-based Blue Origin has expanded to about 3,500 employees, with expanding manufacturing and launch facilities in Texas, Florida and Alabama. Its ambitious portfolio includes the sale of suborbital space travel, heavy-lift launch services for satellites and the lander, none of which are yet fully commercially viable. Recent data shows Blue has overcome combustion stability problems in its BE-4 rocket engine, another line of business, two sources said. Test engines for ULA’s inaugural Vulcan rocket are expected to arrive at Cape Canaveral in Florida this week, with first-flight engines and booster due to arrive later this spring, one added. By comparison, Musk’s SpaceX, founded two years after Blue Origin, has launched its Falcon 9 boosters more than 100 times, launched the world’s most powerful operational rocket, Falcon Heavy three times, and transported astronauts to the Space Station. International. SpaceX said Thursday it had 10,000 users on its nascent satellite-based broadband service, dubbed Starlink, which Musk said will provide crucial funding to develop its Starship rocket for missions to the moon and eventually to Mars. Blue also expects a steady stream of revenue for its heavy-lift New Glenn rocket, set to debut later this year, from Amazon’s upcoming constellation of about 3,200 satellites dubbed Project Kuiper, sources say. Amazon aims to have half the constellation in orbit by 2026, but there is no public schedule for a first launch. So far, Bezos has dedicated one day a week to Blue Origin, with conference room meetings replaced in recent months by video calls, due to the coronavirus pandemic, sources said.