2017 Tech Impact Awards, Space: Blue Origin

Jeff Bezos' ambitious venture in Kent is a Gold Award-winner. Plus: Silver Award-winner Spaceflight Industries.

Location: Kent | Employees: 784

Today’s space race isn’t pitting nation against nation. Rather, it’s billionaire vs. billionaire vs. billionaire.

Jeff Bezos’ ambitious venture in Kent has been leading the pack lately, with Blue Origin’s fully reusable New Shepard rocket launching and landing in West Texas five times in less than two years. The suborbital rocket is the first stop in fulfilling Blue Origin’s goal to send payloads and people into space at lower cost. Its vertical landing on return means both booster and capsule are recovered to send up again.

As Bezos called it in a blog post, the New Shepard “is the rarest of beasts, a used rocket.” While still in test flights, the New Shepard will carry two microgravity experiments from Germany’s space agency later this year, proving a cost-effective alternative for researchers. In addition to contracting for payloads, the New Shepard may start carrying space tourists as soon as 2018.

Meanwhile, Blue Origin’s sights are set far higher. An orbital-class launch vehicle, the New Glenn, is being designed and will be built in a new $200 million manufacturing-and-launch facility in Florida. That rocket’s blastoff could occur as soon as 2020. 

Silver Award

Spaceflight Industries
Location: Seattle | Employees: 124

The South Lake Union company that launches satellites into orbit is now bringing what it sees back to earth through the cloud. Launched this spring, the web-based platform BlackSky Spectra lets users search through archival and current high-resolution images taken from a network of up to 60 multinational satellites.

Requests for custom, multispectral imagery can be made on demand. When fused with data, it can support real-time global analysis of maritime activity, relief efforts, security and more. 

See the rest of the 2017 Seattle Busineess Magazine Tech Impact Award winners here.

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