Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has big plans to expand New Glenn rocket factory in Florida

The Blue Origin space venture aims to add to the massive facility it’s already built near Cape Canaveral in Florida. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture has filed plans for expanding its Florida rocket manufacturing facility onto a vacant 90-acre plot of land next door, Florida Today reports.

The newspaper reported today that the plans for a “South Campus” on Space Commerce Way, near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, are laid out in documents filed with the St. Johns River Water Management District. The land would be used to establish “programs complimentary to those constructed on the adjacent North Campus,” the documents say.

Construction on the new site is due to begin in July, with the final building phase to be wrapped up a year from now. The buildings would provide space for manufacturing and provisioning of commercial launch vehicles, Florida Today reported. The site would include a warehouse that could be expanded later.

In response to GeekWire’s inquiry, Blue Origin said it had nothing to add to the Florida Today report.

Blue Origin has erected a 750,000-square-foot factory on the 126-acre North Campus site for building orbital-class New Glenn rockets. “We’re making parts for the first booster already down there,” Brett Alexander, Blue Origin’s vice president of sales and strategy, said this week at the American Astronautical Society’s Goddard Memorial Symposium in Maryland,

The first New Glenn launch from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 36 is currently scheduled for 2021.

The company builds its suborbital New Shepard rockets, as well as its BE-3 and BE-4 engines, at its headquarters facility in Kent, Wash. BE-4 engine production is expected to shift to a new 200,000-square-foot factory in Huntsville, Ala., in preparation for New Glenn’s maiden launch.

Florida has been attracting an increasing level of interest as a base for commercial rocket production as well as for launches. Relativity Space and Firefly Aerospace recently struck deals for facilities in Florida, and this week SpaceX founder Elon Musk said his company’s next-generation Starship and Super Heavy booster would be built in Florida as well as in Texas.

A prototype for Starship, known as the Starship Hopper, has been going through ground testing at a SpaceX launch site near Brownsville in South Texas and is expected to begin short-hop test flights as early as next week.

In other Blue Origin news:

Space News quoted Blue Origin’s Brett Alexander as saying that the company has looked at ways to repurpose the New Glenn’s second stage in orbit, perhaps as a habitation or storage facility. Alexander said at the Goddard Memorial Symposium that the ideas were explored in a study conducted for NASA on commercialization of space operations in low Earth orbit. He said “we don’t have actual plans at this moment” to follow through on the ideas. Alexander said Bezos has invested “north of $2.5 billion” to develop the New Glenn booster. About a billion dollars of that amount has been spent on the Florida manufacturing and launch facilities, he said, “in addition to what we’re doing with engine development and the manufacturing and design up in Kent.” The West Texas test program for Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard spaceship is on track to start carrying people in the “third or fourth quarter of this year,” Alexander said. (Check out the archived video starting at 10:42.)

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