Bezos says Blue Origin will be a for-profit business
April 10, 2017
PARIS — Blue Origin and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos on April 5 again distinguished himself from SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, with whom is he often compared, by saying patience is one of Blue Origin’s key attributes.
Addressing a press briefing at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Bezos suggested he was ready to throw as much Amazon stock-generated cash at Blue Origin as needed to field a rocket to carry people and satellites into orbit.
Unlike Musk, who routinely announces SpaceX schedules that are not met, Bezos refused to say when his space tourism business would begin carrying people on brief flights into space.
Musk, whose SpaceX recently succeeded in carrying a satellite into geostationary-transfer orbit with a previously flown Falcon 9 first stage, said on April 7 that SpaceX should be able to recover Falcon 9 rocket fairings ($5 million apiece) and reuse the rocket’s upper stage as well — both next year.
“Fairing is ~$5M, but that should be reusable this year. Am fairly confident we can reuse upper stage too by late next year to get to 100%,” Musk said on Twitter.
Bezos declined to commit to any dates for when Blue Origin will start selling tickets and launching customers: We’ll do it when we’re ready and not before, he said.
Bezos also addressed, if in a cursory way, Blue Origin’s current and future business model. For the moment, the man whose Amazon stock-generated wealth has been estimated at $72 billion said the model is as simple as peeling off $1 billion a year from his stock holdings.
Rocket development cost? Take $1 billion a year & call me in the morning
“My business model right now for Blue Origin is I sell about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock and I use it to invest in Blue Origin. So the business model for Blue Origin is very robust.
“It’s very important that Blue Origin stand on its own feet and be a profitable, sustainable enterprise. That’s how real progress gets made. I do not want Blue Origin to be not-for-profit. I want Blue Origin to be a thriving enterprise….
“But it’s a long road to get there and I am happy to invest in it. We’ve spent a lot of money today and I think New Glenn is going to be on the order of $2.5 billion or so.”
For comparison, Europe’s Ariane 6 rocket is estimated to cost 3.4 billion euros, or $3.6 billion at current exchange rates, including direct investment by the European Space Agency and investment by the Airbus Safran Launchers-led industrial team building the vehicle. The figure includes some 600 million euros for the new Ariane 6 launch pad at Europe’s Guiana Space Center spaceport in South America.
Future competitor for ULA’s Vulcan? TBD
Bezos dodged a question on whether Blue Origin would use its New Glenn rocket to compete for U.S. government business against United Launch Alliance and SpaceX. Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine is likely to be selected by United Launch Alliance for ULA’s future Vulcan rocket.
It is not clear whether ULA will insist on a noncompete clause at the time of the contract signing with Blue Origin.
Bezos said only that to get costs down, New Glenn would need a wide set of customers beyond its core mission of launching people into space. The company has signed initial contracts with satellite fleet operators. “But ultimately most of our flights will be taking people up into space,” he said.
Peter B. de Selding