Blue Origin, a rocket company owned by Amazon.com Inc CEO Jeff Bezos, has signed France’s Eutelsat SA as its first customer for satellite launch services, Bezos said on Tuesday.
Blue Origin is developing a reusable orbital rocket called New Glenn that is expected to debut before the end of the decade.
“We couldn’t hope for a better first partner,” Bezos said during a keynote address at the Satellite 2017 conference in Washington.
The target date for the first launch is about 2021, Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer said.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
New Glenn is a follow-on program to Blue Origin’s suborbital New Shepard launch system, a rocket and capsule designed to fly payloads and passengers to about 100km above the planet. Test flights with crew members aboard are expected to begin this year.
The company has not yet set a price for rides.
The New Glenn booster is designed to fly itself back to Earth so it can be recovered and reflown, slashing launch costs.
Tech billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, more commonly known as SpaceX, also favors this approach.
New Glenn is to have about twice the lift capacity of SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket, with the ability to put about 45,400kg into low-altitude Earth orbits.
Blue Origin is to compete with SpaceX, as well as Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co-owned United Launch Alliance, Europe’s Arianespace SA and other companies, for commercial satellite launch business.
Eutelsat operates a fleet of 39 communications satellites launched by several companies, including SpaceX, whose launches sell for about US$62 million, the company’s Web site showed.
“We think that our role as an industry leader is to stimulate competition so that there is a stream of innovation ... and that access to space is easier,” Belmer said. “When the opportunity of ... New Glenn presented itself, we jumped on it.”
Bezos said his goal was to lower the cost of flights so that millions of people can live and work in space.
His vision is to shift heavy industry into orbit and preserve Earth for human life, while Musk wants to colonize Mars.
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