Blue Origin deal kicks off Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos' battle for space

Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos' space engine company, will partner with United Launch Alliance, the Amazon CEO announced Wednesday. The new partnership unites the two biggest competitors to Elon Musk's Space X. This could the beginning of a battle between Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.

Gus Ruelas/Reuters/File
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a partnership between his company, Blue Origin, and United Launch Alliance. The partnership will challenge Elon Musk's Space X.

Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are in a battle for space.

Mr. Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, announced Wednesday at the National Press Club that his rocket company Blue Origin will team up with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide engines for ULA's rockets. ULA is a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin and provides engines to launch military and government satellites to space. Until now, it has been using Russian made engines. 

"We are going to do for space, and for your lives, what the Internet has done for the information age,"  said  ULA CEO Tony Bruno during the announcement.  

The Blue Origin-ULA partnership combines the two biggest nemeses of Space X, Elon Musk's private spaceflight company. 

“Competitors ganging up against you is the sincerest form of flattery,” Mr. Musk told Bloomberg.

Musk, the billionaire founder of PayPay and Tesla Motors, founded Space X in 2002. The company has already successfully taken supplies to the International Space Station and sent satellites to space for commercial use. 

One of the biggest battles between the two companies will be over their rocket engines. Blue Origin has been working on a new engine, called Blue Engine-4, for the past three years. Mr. Bruno said it will be another four years until the rockets are ready. The rockets will challenge Space X's family of Falcon rockets, which are also still in development. 

Before that, in Dec. 2013, Blue Origin tried to keep NASA from handing its historic Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to Space X, but the protest was denied by the Government Accountability Office. 

The history between Space X and ULA goes back even further. ULA provides almost all of the government's sensitive launches, including satellites and spy equipment. Space X has protested the partnership, claiming to undercut ULA. Space X filed a lawsuit against a ULA subsidiary for what they believe is a monopoly in the military launch business.

The next frontier for both companies is private space flights. Space X is already under contract to take people to space using its Dragon V2 spacecraft. On Tuesday, NASA awarded Space X a $2.6 billion contract to take astronauts to space. NASA said they hope to have astronauts going to and from the International Space Station by 2017. 

According to Bezos, Blue Origin's long term goal is to take tourists and researchers to space using the company's New Shepard spacecraft, but he recognized that could take a while. 

"If you're not passionate about space, go figure out something else to do," Bezos said  Wednesday, "because this business is too hard if you're not passionate about it."

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.