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Bezos to visit Cape for 'significant' announcement

(Florida TJeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon.
Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon.com CEO, is the founder of private space company Blue Origin.

(Florida Today) -- Jeff Bezos, the billionaire Amazon.com CEO and founder of private space company Blue Origin, will visit Cape Canaveral next month to make a "significant announcement regarding the commercial launch industry," according to a media invitation.

The announcement is expected to confirm Blue Origin's intent to build rockets on the Space Coast and launch them from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The company has been negotiating a package with Space Florida and other agencies that would result in construction of a manufacturing facility in Exploration Park just south of Kennedy Space Center's secure area on Merritt Island, and eventual launches of orbital human spaceflight missions from Launch Complex 36.

Space Florida's board last week gave its approval for the state economic development agency to finalize the terms of an agreement, referring only to the deal's code name of "Project Panther."

Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello then said he thought the deal would be made public within a month or so.

Bezos' visit is scheduled for Sept. 15.

Blue Origin earlier this year completed a successful unmanned test flight of its suborbital New Shepard vehicle, launched from the company's private West Texas launch site.

For its planned orbital rockets, which could be ready within five years, the company initially hoped to launch from the state's proposed Shiloh launch site at the northern border of NASA-owned land Kennedy Space Center shares with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Rockets would have been built in the nearby town of Oak Hill in Volusia County.

However, the Shiloh site's approval is far from certain, and environmental opposition stalled a proposed re-zoning of an Oak Hill property considered for the manufacturing work.

Exploration Park and Launch Complex 36 emerged as an acceptable backup over alternatives in other states such as Georgia and North Carolina, which also would have required lengthy environmental studies and lack the Space Coast's existing launch infrastructure and work force.

In addition to developing its own rockets, Blue Origin has partnered with United Launch Alliance to develop the BE-4 engine, which could power the booster ULA is designing to replace its Atlas V rocket.

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