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Science & Technology

Jeff Bezos Announces Plans To Build, Launch Rockets From Cape Canaveral

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

When the space shuttle program ended four years ago, many people wondered what would happen to Cape Canaveral in Florida. One answer was Elon Musk's SpaceX. And today, the founder and CEO of Amazon chimed in. He also has a space exploration company, called Blue Origin, and it'll be setting up shop there. Brendan Byrne of member station WMFE attended the announcement.

BRENDAN BYRNE, BYLINE: At Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 36, Blue Origin's founder, Jeff Bezos, vowed to launch a new orbital vehicle by 2020. His company has been around for 15 years, but it's not as well-known as its competitor, SpaceX, which is already launching rockets. Bezos wants to take his company a step further. He won't just launch rockets from Cape Canaveral, he wants to build them there, too. Florida's storied history with rocket assembly was one reason he chose the Space Coast to set up shop.

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JEFF BEZOS: The talented people part of it was especially important to us because we're doing something a little unusual, which is that we are going to build the vehicle here. So this is the first time - I don't think there have been any vehicles launched from the Space Coast that have been built here.

BYRNE: Blue Origin plans to open a massive manufacturing and processing facility near the Kennedy Space Center. He estimates it will bring 300 jobs and an investment of $200 million to the area. Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida, the organization responsible for courting new space business to the state, says this is a big deal.

DALE KETCHAM: What's unique about this is, it is a significant step towards the development of Florida as a location where we do more than launch. We now build capsules. Thanks to Blue Origin, we're now going to be building rockets.

BYRNE: When the shuttle program ended, NASA hoped that private industry would fill the void. SpaceX, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Blue Origin and others have done just that. Bezos says competition is important.

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BEZOS: And we need to continue their pioneering spirit, we need to continue moving forward. And a big part of that is becoming space-faring.

BYRNE: At first, Blue Origin will send just cargo rockets into space, but later the company plans to launch humans into orbit as well. For NPR News, I'm Brendan Byrne in Cape Canaveral, Fla. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.