Call him just another space cowboy riding the range. It was Christmas Day when I first saw that Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN ) CEO Jeff Bezos planned a new rocket development facility for early 2006. His company, Blue Origin, will go head-to-head with Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic in seeking to take adventuresome tourists to the precipice of orbit before returning to Earth.
It won't happen soon, of course. But Blue Origin's proposed new digs are an encouraging sign. The Seattle Times reports that Bezos paid $13 million for a little less than 25 acres in the Kent Valley near Seattle. And records found by the paper show that the company will remodel an office building and build a warehouse that will apparently house spacecraft and rocket engines for testing. The cost -- $8 million.
The actual launching pad, however, will be in Texas, where Bezos has a 165,000-acre ranch. In the long term, the paper reports, the ranch could become a spaceport capable of hosting one launch per week.
Little is known about Blue Origin's technology. But some digging by the Times found that Bezos' facilities could be designed to house rockets that launch vertically and return the same way. That would be a marked difference from the U.S. space program, which once used rockets that would splash down in the ocean and now has the space shuttle, which lands like an airplane. Russia's Soyuz rockets, however, re-enter vertically and use reverse engines to ease the impact of landing. All of this is to say that there are dozens of technologies already in existence that could fuel consumer space adventures.
But it's a good bet that hundreds more are still needed and that many of those have yet to leap from a drawing board to a working lab. However, entrepreneurs such as Bezos, Branson, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) co-founder Paul Allen -- who funded the winning SpaceShipOne in the X-Prize competition -- appear ready to provide the capital. That's good news for dozens of companies, from Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT ) and BallAerospace (NYSE: BLL ) to Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB ) and SpaceDev. They're all likely to have a hand in our latest quest for the heavens.
No doubt, that's one of the reasons we're tracking the space industry so closely at Motley Fool Rule Breakers. Another reason is that the industry could very well produce the next out-of-this-world stock.
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Fool contributorTim Beyersowns shares of SpaceDev. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool has an ironcladdisclosure policy.