Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, announced Tuesday that it was building a manufacturing facility on Florida’s Space Coast, just south of the Kennedy Space Center, and would be launching from there “later this decade.” The company is investing at least $200 million in the region and will add about 330 jobs through its new production site. The announcement was touted as a huge boost toward realizing commercial space travel, with Florida making efforts to position itself as a hub of “space commerce.”
“The site saw its last launch in 2005, and the pad has stood silent for more than 10 years,” Bezos said at a press conference revealing the news. “[That’s] too long. We can’t wait to fix that.”
“One day, I look forward to having a press conference with you guys in space,” he said later in the announcement.
Though founded in 2000, Blue Origin, one of Fast Company‘s most innovative space companies this year, has kept most of its operations hush-hush till more recently. (The New York Times once wrote, “Blue Origin is parsimonious in giving updates about its progress, even when it is successful.”) In April, the company conducted an unmanned test flight of its New Shepard spacecraft in Texas. While the crew capsule launched and landed smoothly, the rocket booster–designed to be reusable–was not recovered.
In September 2014, Blue Origin teamed up with United Launch Alliance, a prominent space launch firm owned by Lockheed Martin and Boeing, to develop a domestic rocket engine fueled by natural gas. Last week, the two companies built on that partnership and signed an agreement “to expand production capabilities” of the engine, according to Blue Origin.