Jeff Bezos announced today that his private spaceflight venture, Blue Origin, has begun construction on the new rocket manufacturing facility the company is building in Florida. The facility, which will span 750,000 square feet, will be used to build the company’s future orbital rocket, according to an email Bezos sent out today. Currently, Blue Origin’s only working vehicle, the New Shepard, can travel to and from suborbital space but cannot achieve orbit.
The new rocket factory is scheduled to be completed by December 2017
The new building is being constructed at Exploration Park — an area at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, that companies can lease out for research and development. Exploration Park is conveniently located nearby Launch Complex 36, a spaceport that Blue Origin is currently leasing at the cape. LC36 was once used by NASA and the US Air Force to launch Atlas rockets, but the site hasn’t seen a rocket take off since 2005. In September, Bezos announced that Blue Origin would be moving into LC36 and would eventually use the facility to launch its future rockets.
Artistic renderings of Blue Origin's new rocket factory. (Blue Origin)
Those rockets will be made at the new rocket factory, which is scheduled to be completed by December 2017. The building will also be used for processing, integrating, and testing the vehicles, according to Bezos, but the engines needed for the rockets will be made elsewhere. Blue Origin is currently developing the BE-4 engine, which will eventually go into the company’s orbital rockets when completed. At first, BE-4 production will take place at Blue Origin’s facility in Kent, Washington, but Bezos said the company will look for a bigger site where the engine can be manufactured at a higher rate.
We still know very little about the orbital rocket that Blue Origin plans to build. Bezos said that the vehicle has been under development for the past three years, and that he would share details later this year. But we do know that the future rocket will be reusable, just like the New Shepard. "We’re clearing the way for the production of a reusable fleet of orbital vehicles that we will launch and land, again and again," wrote Bezos in today’s email.