Blue Origin lags behind SpaceX, but maybe not for very long

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Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, started his private rocket company Blue Origin more than twenty years ago. Trolling behind SpaceX, things may just be getting started.

Jeff Bezos recently announced that he will step down as CEO of Amazon this summer to become its executive chairman. In letter addressed to employees, he underlined his intention to devote more of his time and energy to other passions, mentioning in particular one of his other companies: Blue Origin, specialized in the aerospace industry.

Does that mean Mr. Bezos will take on a more important day-to-day role in his rocket company? “If Jeff chose to spend more time at Blue Origin in the next phase of his career, that would be a very good thing.“, Said Rob Meyerson, president of the company from 2003 to 2017.“He brings great intelligence, great operational expertise and a great passion for mission for the company.“.

A very shy start for Blue Origin

Mr. Bezos founded Blue Origin In 2000, two years before the creation of SpaceX by Elon Musk. In its early days, the company communicated very little. Then, over the years, Blue Origin became less secretive and started to grow, coming up with several ambitious projects.

The coming years of the company even appear to be very busy. It is indeed a question of proposing soon short suborbital jaunts to wealthy tourists aboard a capsule: the New Shepard. The company’s future New Glenn rocket will also join NASA’s commercial launch fleet for operate flights from the mid-2021s. Finally, Blue Origin is still in the running for the development of a lunar lander aimed at bringing humans back to the Moon as early as 2024, as part of the Artemis program.

Even so, while Elon Musk has already built a thriving business, mainly thanks to his workhorse, the Falcon 9, Blue Origin appears to be lagging behind. The company has yet to take anyone into space, and its New Glenn launcher, which is set to compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9, has yet to take off once.

However, if the company is lagging behind SpaceX, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is far behind.

The New Shepard launcher supposed to take tourists into space. Credit: Blue Origin

The bunny and the turtle

During his tour with journalists in 2016, Mr. Bezos pointed out to them a picture plastered on one of the walls of the company’s headquarters. In this image are two turtles holding an hourglass and looking towards the cosmos. And underneath was Blue Origin’s motto: gradually fiercely which means “step by step, fiercely” in Latin.

Also, the company intends to become the turtle of the famous fable of La Fontaine where slowness and stability outweigh the hare’s speed.

It is therefore no longer a question for Bezos to spend only one day a week at Blue Origin as in 2016, leaving it to his engineers to talk to journalists about the technical aspects of his ships, which contrasted with Elon Musk, deeply involved in the engineering details at SpaceX. Blue Origin must now move from “research and development” to “search for income and profit”.

So, perhaps now is the perfect time for Jeff Bezos, a powerful businessman who knows how to make money, to get more involved in society.

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