Environmental

Miami Native Jeff Bezos to Launch Paying Passengers to Space From Florida

Between making billions with Amazon, experimenting with home drone delivery, and buying a little publication called the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos also has been quietly pumping money into a secretive company aimed at blasting paying customers and scientists into space.

Tomorrow, the Miami Palmetto Senior High School graduate is set to pull the curtain back on those plans. In fact, he's expected to announce that his company, Blue Origin, will build and launch its rockets just up the coast in Cape Canaveral.

"It's very significant because it points the way to a diversification of the industry, which is really what we want to see in this area," Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida, told reporters. "We're going to be building rockets and building satellites and building the whole supply chain for the space industry."

Bezos has been tight-lipped about Blue Origin since the company's existence became public in 2003, describing it only as a space research company. (Bezos has been fascinated by space exploration much longer than that. Two years ago, a Washington Post profiler dug up a 1982 interview Bezos gave the Miami Herald when he was Palmetto's valedictorian, describing his plan to put millions of people into orbit as a way to “to preserve the Earth.”) 

But lately, the company has been much more open about its goals — namely, launching paying customers into orbit. In April, the firm released a video of the first test flight of its suborbital New Shepherd vehicle: 


Bezos has been vague about his news conference tomorrow, but Space Coast public officials say he'll announce plans to blast off rockets from Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36, possibly within a couple of years. 

Even more significant for Florida's space economy, his company will build rocket engines just down the road from the space center, near Merritt Island. Blue Origin announced a deal earlier this year with United Launch Alliance, a private company that regularly fires U.S. military equipment into space from Canaveral, to build its next set of booster engines. 
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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink