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Blue Origin Opens New Headquarters As It Aims For The Moon, Astronaut Flights

Blue Origin opened a new headquarters in Washington State as the company aims to send private astronauts on suborbital space trips later this year.

The facility has capacity for 1,500 people for operations, as well as research and development. Blue Origin expects an active 2020 as it continues to get its suborbital New Shepard spacecraft ready to carry humans, and it works on its uncrewed "Blue Moon" lander to send payloads to the lunar surface. The company has formed a team with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper to build also a crewed lunar lander for NASA's human Artemis program.

"We grew by a third last year, and we're going to continue to grow at a rapid pace," said Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith at the ribbon-cutting event, according to a press release issued Monday (Jan. 6). Media reports say that Blue Origin has more than 2,500 employees.

Blue Origin opens its new research and development building and headquarters in Kent, Washington on Jan. 6, 2020. Pictured from left: Washington State Representative Tina Orwall, US Congressman Denny Heck, US Congressperson Adam Smith, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith, Kent Mayor Dana Ralph, US Congressperson Derek Kilmer, Washington State Senator Lisa Wellman, Washington State Representative J.T. Wilcox, and Blue Origin COO Terry Benedict. (Image credit: Blue Origin)

"For those of you that are Washington State residents, what is exciting is we're going to be doing all this work from a headquarters based here in Kent," Smith added. "It's a remarkable statement to say that we're going to fly humans to space, we're going to build and design large engines and a large orbital rocket, and we're going to go back to the moon – all through work centered here."

The main hub is called the O'Neill Building after Gerard O'Neill, a physicist who did several studies on human settlements in space. The building is on a 30-acre land plot, which includes 13 acres for wildlife, protection against invasive species, and flood storage.

The private company was founded in 2000 by Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos, who also provided the initial financing. Bezos has continued to provide funding injections to Blue Origin through sales of Amazon stock and equity.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.