Jeff Bezos’ private space company, Blue Origin, is planning to expand operations and scale up, in a bid to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The firm, which has recently been awarded a lunar lander contract for NASA’s upcoming Artemis missions, is searching for a site to build an international launch facility and is also looking for new partnerships and acquisitions in Europe and beyond to accelerate the scaling up of its space services, including launch and engine businesses.
We’re looking for anything we can do to acquire, to scale up to better serve our customers. It’s not a function of size — rather how much it accelerates our road map of what we’re trying to get done.Bob Smith, Blue Origin’s chief executive
Blue Origin’s appetite for acquisitions marked “a different mindset”, according to Caleb Henry, director of research at Quilty Space. Only last year Blue Origin bought Honeybee Robotics, the space-based robotics systems company.
“They are wanting to expand and work more with partners. To do that they need skillsets outside of Blue Origin,” Henry added. The space company’s incursions into Europe are also perceived as an opportunity to acquire new talent at a time of fierce competition for skills.
Currently, Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard rocket is grounded, having suffered an anomaly that forced its capsule to eject during a science mission last year. The nozzle failure caused the crew capsule’s abort motor to fire, sending it to a safe parachute landing, while the propulsion module was destroyed. However, Smith recently stated the company is only a “few weeks” away from launching the rocket, which is used for space tourism and science expeditions, once again.
Despite all the successes, Bezos’ space company has yet to fly a rocket to orbit. The company said it is hoping to launch its orbital New Glenn rocket for the first-time next year. New Glenn is part of “the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history.” The rocket was contracted for at least 12 of 83 launches of Amazon’s Starlink rival internet satellite service — Project Kuiper — scheduled between 2024 and 2029.
Smith described Blue Origin as a company that shifted upon his arrival as CEO in 2017 from a research and development mindset to a more commercial focus with several lines of business, according to Space News. That includes New Shepard and New Glenn, as well as the BE-4 engines it produces both for New Glenn and United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur.