The 21st century has seen a new era of space exploration, with NASA’s technology advancing at a faster rate than ever before. But, at the same time, we can’t underestimate the contributions of privately owned space exploration companies, and one of the most exciting at the present moment is Blue Origin.
Blue Origin has not been around for long, but already, the company’s contributions have been notable. And, it certainly hasn’t hurt their progress that NASA has contributed largely to their initiatives. In fact, the partnership between NASA and Blue Origin is one of the most significant throughout the entire history of space travel.
Blue Origin has made headlines recently, not for their space missions but because of their suing both SpaceX and NASA, as the latter organization awarded the former with a contract to develop a moon lander for the Artemis missions, after claiming to provide contracts to two different companies. Despite this hiccup, NASA and Blue Origin actually share a positive history together for the most part.
The History of Blue Origin
Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos, the billionaire CEO of Amazon. The company was launched in Washington State, and its present CEO is Bob Smith. Blue Origin’s ambitions have been similar to those of SpaceX since day one, which has a lot to do with the rivalry between the two companies, with SpaceX being headed by Elon Musk.
Blue Origin’s goals have always been to launch a new era of space travel, accessible to non-space personnel, offering a form of space tourism to the general public, while making space travel more cost-efficient with new developments to save lots of money. Blue Origin has also been committed to entering new space territories for the first time, and its first crewed mission took place in late July of 2021, crossing the Karman line and taking a total of 10 minutes to finish out its journey.
Even though Blue Origin has been around for 21 years, it flew largely under the radar largely due to not having enough funding from investors. Only recently has it been given the investments needed to live out its goals.
NASA’s Relationship to Blue Origin
NASA’s relationship with Blue Origin technically began in 2009, 9 years after the company’s launch, when Blue Origin received funding from NASA to establish a comprehensive program aimed at promoting safer space travel for astronauts. This included more advanced escape systems and the development of a pressure vessel cabin to weigh less than the norm, along with technological features that kept operations as risk-free as possible.
In 2011, NASA gave $22 million to Blue Origin under the CCDev Phase 2 Program, allowing the company to test the orbital Space Vehicle to provide cost-efficient transportation to and from the International Space Station. This vehicle used groundbreaking bionic design, using advanced geometry paired with stunning engineering to make it easier to reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.
NASA has remained quite generous when it comes to funding certain independent space exploration companies and has given Blue Origin the investments needed to fulfill crucial missions over the years. Despite the change in tone in this relationship as of late, NASA has played a critical role in enabling Blue Origin to reach their goals.
What to Expect from This Collaboration in the Coming Years?
Right now, it remains to be seen whether or not Blue Origin gets what they want out of their lawsuit against NASA and SpaceX. Blue Origin fully intended to team up with the two companies to launch a moon lander for the Artemis missions, and their being left out of the contract may change depending on how the lawsuit proceeds, with the lawsuit itself seeing its own issues as dates keep getting pushed back.
Blue Origin is quite behind SpaceX at the moment, as they have fewer completed missions under their belt. Therefore, it’s not surprising that they’re racing to fulfill a whole lot in the next few years in order to be neck in neck with their competitor. Their most ambitious goal at the present time is developing floating colonies on Mars for individuals to inhabit, which has reportedly been a personal dream of Bezos’ since he was a child.
Blue Origin’s Future Looks Bright
It’s true that Blue Origin is quite behind its competition at the moment, but we also have no doubt that they have the means to catch up quickly thanks to a combination of support from NASA overall, along with some of the best innovators and engineers in the business. Their goals are certainly lofty, but few other privately owned space companies have the capabilities to make their dream into a reality quite like Blue Origin.