WASHINGTON — Commercial space transportation company Blue Origin said Aug. 24 that it will make an announcement in Florida in September widely believed to be linked to proposals to build and launch rockets from there.
In a statement, the company said that Jeff Bezos, the billionaire founder of Blue Origin, “will make a significant announcement regarding the emerging commercial launch industry” Sept. 15 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company offered no other details about the nature of the planned announcement.
Blue Origin has been tied in recent months to an effort by Space Florida, the state’s space development organization, for developing a manufacturing and launch site at Cape Canaveral. Space Florida has been involved in negotiations for what it calls “Project Panther,” which minutes of the organization’s public board meetings describe as “a company evaluating Florida site selection in conjunction with operational activities including manufacturing and payload processing facilities.”
The Space Florida documents don’t explicitly identify Blue Origin as the Project Panther company. However, in April the newspaper Florida Today linked Project Panther to Blue Origin when Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the publication that he had been in discussions with Bezos regarding a Florida facility for Blue Origin.
Project Panther, according to public documents, involves “securing long-term land and facility use agreements at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Complex from Space Florida for properties Space Florida either currently holds such rights or has the option to acquire rights.” The Space Florida board approved a motion at its most recent board meeting Aug. 19 to allow the organization’s management to complete negotiations on those agreements.
Blue Origin, based in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Washington, owns its own test site in West Texas that it has used for flight tests of its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. However, the company has aspirations to develop an orbital launch vehicle as well. “Our long-term goal is to build orbital launch vehicle capabilities,” Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson said at an April press conference about the company’s engine development work.
Meyerson, at that press conference, said that the company was looking at several locations in the United States for a future orbital launch site. “We’re looking at a number of states, and we’re not releasing which states those are,” he said, but added that “Florida is one of those states.”