Jeff Bezos Is Building a Rocket Factory at an Old NASA Launch Site

The Amazon CEO's rocket company, Blue Origin, is taking over Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36.

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Sep 15 2015, 2:17pm

Image: Blue Origin

It's been more than 10 years since Cape Canaveral's Launch Complex 36 sent a rocket to space, but the launch pads there won't lie dormant much longer. Jeff Bezos's space company, Blue Origin, announced Tuesday that it'll be taking over the former NASA complex and will be building a rocket factory on its premises.

The Kent, Washington-based company said it will make Florida's Exploration Park—located just outside the Kennedy Space Center—its base of launch operations, and it plans to start launching orbital missions by the end of the decade.

"We're not just launching from here, we're building here," Bezos, who also owns Amazon and The Washington Post, said at a press conference. "We're making a 21st production facility to manufacture our reusable fleet [of rockets] where we're ready them for flight again and again."

Bezos. Image: NASA

Launch Complex 36 was owned and operated by NASA for several decades—it's where the first Martian probes, called Mariner, were launched from—before it was handed over to the US Air Force. It has remained dormant and unoccupied since 2005.

Blue Origin's plan is much like SpaceX's—the company was embroiled in a bitter patent suit with Elon Musk's company over plans to land a rocket on a floating platform at sea in order to eventually reuse it. That suit was dropped earlier this month.

Though Blue Origin isn't as established at SpaceX, it launched its first rocket earlier this year using its in-house, American-made BE-4 engine. That engine will eventually power United Launch Alliance's Vulcan, a next-gen rocket made by the country's most reliable space operator.

"Locating our vehicle assembly near our launch site makes it easier to transport giant rockets," Bezos said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the company will invest more than $200 million in building its new factory and base of operations in the state, creating more than 330 jobs.