In March 2016, Jeff Bezos finally uncovered his secretive rocket company to reporters. The company, Blue Origin, has its headquarters in Kent, Washington. Devoid of the pretension, glamour, and hype of other 'astropreneurs', Bezos has taken a more systematic approach to demystifying and unlocking access to space. The company’s motto: “Gradatim Ferociter” is Latin for “step by step, ferociously,” reflecting Bezos’ business plans to incrementally integrate the public into space exploration. With the eminent list of entrepreneurs running private space initiatives like Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Yuri Milner, and Richard Branson, the modern Space Race is fiercely competitive and a black hole for Venture Capital. Bezos has carved his niche by promoting radical innovation through sustainable and attainable means.
Bezos’ business plan consists of two components: promulgating space tourism and selling its rockets to other companies. Space tourism will involve the reusable spacecraft, New Shepard. Tourists will sit in the crew capsule and be shot to suborbital altitudes. The crew capsule will eject from the spacecraft and safely parachute passengers back to Earth. Bezos argues that space tourism is not just a luxury for the rich, but rather a necessary step in developing expertise in this nascent technology. New aerospace technology must go through many small scale tests before robust change can occur. Currently, private rocket companies launch around a dozen times per year. With a small fleet of reusable New Shepards, Blue Origin will have the capacity to multiply that output many times over. The second part of Bezos' plan is to sell rockets to companies like United Launch Alliance - Boeing and Lockheed Martin’s joint venture. Blue Origin is currently developing a new engine, BE-4, which will have full version tests at the end of this year.
Like others in his industry, Bezos believes that aerospace innovation is crucial for the future of the human race. Energy consumption has been growing at a rate of 2 to 3 percent per year. At this rate, within a few centuries, energy usage will be equal to all the energy produced if high-efficiency solar cells covered every inch of the planet; we will eventually consume all of the sustainable solar energy that reaches the earth, and then some. Moving into space provides new opportunities for energy and raw materials resources. While this theme adds a twinge of existential crises to the competition in the Modern Day Space Race, Bezos has remained focused. With a slow and methodical plan in place, Blue Origin will create change that begets more change. Although Bezos’ Blue Origin is currently the tortoise behind Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies (the hare), slow and steady could win the race.