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[i]Thanks to Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos' backing, Blue Origin is one of the country's most financially stable rocket ventures, but it has also had one of the lowest profiles — until now.
The company, based in an industrial area south of Seattle, is waiting to hear whether it can take over one of NASA's crown jewels: Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the first and the last space shuttle flight blasted off. And Bezos is competing with another billionaire, SpaceX's Elon Musk, to get it.
...both Musk and Bezos are eyeing the launch pad because, for all their billions, it's still challenging to build an orbital launch pad from scratch. Kennedy Space Center would be ideal, because it already has the infrastructure as well as the coastal range clearances for orbital launches. As an illustration of how tough it is to create a new pad, SpaceX has been looking into creating a new commercial launch facility for more than two years, but a deal still hasn't been reached.
SpaceX spokeswoman Christina Ra told NBC News that 39A wouldn't take the place of a future commercial launch facility. "Top priorities for 39A would be for commercial crew [launches to the space station] and Falcon Heavy missions, though we'd be able to launch all missions on our East Coast manifest," Ra said in an email.
...Blue Origin would run 39A as a multi-use facility, allowing other launch providers to send their rockets into space from the pad for a price. "We're open to everyone," Meyerson said. "We think we have the technical background and we have the long-term financial commitment to make a multi-user pad at KSC successful."
One of Blue Origin's customers could be United Launch Alliance, which currently sends government and commercial payloads into space from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. ULA's Atlas 5 rocket is slated to be used by two other SpaceX competitors, the Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Corp., to send crews and cargo to the space station and perhaps other orbital destinations as early as 2016. Blue Origin may also use the Atlas 5 while it develops its own rocket.
Blue Origin's director of strategy and business development, Bretton Alexander, said ULA and at least one other launch provider are supporting Blue Origin's bid for Launch Complex 39A.[/i]
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