Er has no doubts. With his black leather jacket, white shirt and sunglasses he looks like an airplane pilot. But Jeff Bezos is standing in front of a space capsule from his company Blue Origin under the blue sky of Colorado Springs. Once again he is asked if he is convinced of the success of his space activities. With Amazon he built the world’s largest online retailer, but how about the competitiveness of his rockets? “Of course we will be just as competitive,” says Bezos. He doesn’t hesitate for a moment.
The space industry is still relatively small, but it is facing a huge upheaval, says Bezos. In doing so, he draws a comparison. Amazon has been able to develop very well thanks to the Internet and good ideas from its company. The internet makes it easy to build a business. If there is low-cost access to space in the future, “the same thing will happen in space that I have seen with the Internet for the past 20 years,” says Bezos. “And believe me – it’s fun.”
Bezos has its eye on a new multi-billion dollar market. After the Internet with its almost limitless communication and its limitless business connections, the next upheaval is “New Space”. Again this mixture of new technology, daring entrepreneurs, a lot of dynamism, money and unlimited possibilities in the real sense of the word. The 54-year-old has long been active in this new market. He is already one of the space pioneers, even if others are currently building larger rockets.
As in online retail, Bezos wants to be at the forefront of this future industry in space. He is ready to spend a lot of money on it. He doesn’t want to reveal exactly how much. The price of entry into space is still very high, said Bezos recently in New York. But he wants to help ensure that it changes radically. “I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can explore the solar system.” He allegedly funds his space company Blue Origin by selling $ 1 billion worth of Amazon stock each year. A speculation, because the billionaire does not give a precise insight into the investment.
The beginnings of Bezos’ passion for space go back a long way. He didn’t jump into the market because it might be chic to be involved in New Space. It comes from his deepest conviction. He can remember watching the US moon landing with his parents and grandparents when he was five. Then he got a passion for space travel. “You are not looking for passion – passion is looking for you,” he later commented. “Passion is a gift.” As a schoolboy, he wrote about his dream of colonizing space and read science fiction books.
Later he discussed unusual ideas in small, discreet groups, such as an elevator into space. As humanity moved into the 21st century, he founded Blue Origin, his own space company. Initially, few knew about the company and its remote test site in West Texas. The company motto “Gradatim Ferociter!”, That means “step by step, but resolutely” fits in with this. Do not pursue a goal hectically, but smart and intelligent and not immediately in the spotlight.
Bezos also does some unusual things. In 2010, as part of an expedition, he and a team brought engines from the first stage of the Saturn rocket, which made America’s historic moon landing possible, from the ocean floor. You are now in a museum.
And Bezos is not someone who is already talking about what should be the day after tomorrow. “I’ve always been convinced that slow means calm and calm means fast. I never believed in abbreviations. ”He points out:“ The easy life is an illusion. We have to work hard, lay a foundation, and then build on it. ”So he goes step by step. Bezos admits that on many points he has similar views on the future development of space travel as the multi-entrepreneur Elon Musk, who is involved in numerous technology projects, with his space company SpaceX. “Space is so huge that it can hold many winners,” he plays down the competition. For Bezos, too, the reusability of the rockets is the key to making space travel cheaper. In the future, missiles should be usable like aircraft. Refuel, take off, fly, land, inspect, refuel. This is how Bezos and Musk envision the future of access to space.
They only differ in their approach. Bezos is building the future step by step. From smaller missiles to big ones. For the Amazon founder, in the space business, it’s first the little hops to the threshold where space begins, around 100 kilometers high, with reusable rockets in capsules with large windows for space tourists. A consumer business: experience weightlessness for a few minutes and be able to talk about it for a lifetime. Vertically up, without orbiting the earth, and the capsule on the parachute down again. Bezos does not yet say what exactly this should cost for space tourists.
Musk, on the other hand, was never interested in this space tourism business. He started with the satellite transport. But not only Musk, Bezos has already proven that the reusability of missiles works. A model of his “New Shepard” tourist rocket has already flown five times and gently returned on landing legs.
45 tons payload
Even if Musk is playing in a different, higher league with his rockets such as the “Falcon Heavy” or the future giant model “BFR”, Bezos is continuously following his path. He has big plans too. It almost seems as if he wants to learn from the mistakes of others. After the small space tourist rocket “New Shepard”, Bezos wants to make his much larger rocket “New Glenn” fly. The name is said to be reminiscent of John Glenn, who was the first US astronaut to orbit the earth in a capsule in 1962. The rocket “New Glenn” would be 86 meters or 95 meters high, depending on the version, and thus larger than the “Falcon Heavy” from Musk. The Bezos rocket is designed to put 45 tons in low orbit (LEO) or 13 tons in geostationary orbit. Above all, the rocket could also transport manned capsules – whether towards the moon or Mars.
The rocket would have more payload than Europe’s new “Ariane 6” rocket, which is due to take off for the first time in 2020. In the same year, the “New Glenn” is also scheduled to start in Florida. Bezos already has several customers for it. The best sign of trust and confidence.
A special feature of the future large “New Glenn” rocket are its seven BE-4 engines of the first rocket stage. Blue Origin is developing these large, powerful drives with the support of NASA. There is even a global political component behind it. The Bezos engines are intended to free the Americans from their previous dependence on the Russian RD-180 engines, which continue to power the American Atlas rockets that carry US military satellites into space. Bezos not only wants to install the engines in his own rocket “New Glenn”, but also to deliver them to the United Launch Alliance from Boeing and Lockheed. It is already becoming apparent that there will be several large new missiles in the future.
Work and live in space
Bezos takes the competition calmly and does not allow himself to be put under pressure. He kept reminding his team that “we don’t race”. The rocket will one day also transport people and must therefore be as safe as possible. “We’re not going to take any short cuts. We’ll put people on this vehicle when we’re done and not a second earlier. “
Bezos has a vision for this. Never in the history of space travel have more than 13 people been in space at the same time. He wants to change that. “I want to see millions of people who work and live in space,” he says and smiles. After space tourism and the first flight of the “New Glenn” rocket in 2020, the next step could be the “Blue Moon” project – the landing of a supplier capsule on the moon in order to colonize it. A delivery service in space. It’s almost like Space Amazon.