Spaceflight Insider

Blue Origin laying groundwork for space commerce in central Florida

Exploration Park Sign

Blue Origin will be a major player in Kennedy Space Center’s Exploration Park. Image Credit: Exploration Park

This week, Florida Today published a story about the continuing development of Blue Origin’s facilities on the Florida Space Coast. It states an eight-story, 475,000-square-foot (44,000 m2) manufacturing center is expected to be in place as soon as the end of next year or early 2018. The orbital launch vehicles Blue Origin is planning to build there could be ready for the first launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 36 by 2020.

Blue Origin’s manufacturing center is based at Exploration Park, an industrial park outside the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) gate that was started by Space Florida, the state’s space business development agency. This plant represents an important development for space work in Florida as Blue Origin will not just be launching rockets, but also manufacturing vehicles at the Cape.

Blue Origin's founder, Jeff Bezos unveils his firm's new launch vehicle, which he called "Big Brother" as Florida's Governor, Rick Scott looks on. The announcement that Blue Origin would begin operations at Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36B was made during an event hosted at the historic site on Sept. 15, 2015. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

Back in September 2015, Jeff Bezos unveiled his firm’s plan to launch from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 36. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

During the original announcement of the project Sept. 15, 2015, the CEO and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos, promised the BE-4 engine would also be acceptance-tested at KSC.

The company declined to respond to SpaceFlight Insider’s questions about their facilities and future operations at Launch Complex 36.

Scott Henderson, Blue Origin’s Orbital Launch Site director, spoke on a panel at the 44th Space Congress in Cape Canaveral May 24.

He explained the selection of Florida was no accident, calling the state an “informed consumer” when it comes to working with space businesses. He cited the state’s advantages for launch providers, including its geographical location, straightforward environmental approval processes, low operating costs, tax incentives, and an easier regulatory environment.

Blue Origin’s presence in Florida will push Spaceport Florida’s launch infrastructure to the limit – as several speakers during the Space Congress noted 30 launches were expected at the Cape this year, with more coming in the future.

“As you go to more frequent launches, items that weren’t constraints when used once a month become constraints now,” Henderson said.

One example Henderson cited was the availability of airspace corridors, which must be cleared for launch.

Despite these pending constraints, Colonel Eric Krystkowiak of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing and KSC Director Bob Cabana expressed confidence that the spaceport’s facilities will be able to meet commercial launch needs in the future.

“We are excited to have begun the site preparation work for our orbital launch vehicle manufacturing facility in Florida,” Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson told Florida Today. “This is just another big step toward our vision of enabling an enduring presence in space.”

Video Courtesy of NASA


Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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