Why Jeff Bezos is lagging behind Elon Musk

Why Jeff Bezos is lagging behind Elon Musk

Blue Origin CEO Jeff Bezos (left) and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Axel Springer

Mark Zuckerberg popularized the motto, “Move fast and break things.” His rival Elon Musk seems to have taken that advice to heart, at least when it comes to SpaceX. The spacecraft manufacturer has launched its rockets hundreds of times, an approach that has caused its creations to occasionally—and literally—go up in flames.

Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin is taking a different tack, however. The company is not moving at nearly as fast a pace as SpaceX, and it has yet to reach orbit. But that’s seemingly all by design, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday. Blue Origin is operating much more cautiously in a bid to make fewer mistakes on its way toward space.

Many of us think of Blue Origin as really, truly a potential competitor to SpaceX,” Thomas Zurbuchen, the former top science administrator at NASA, told the WSJ. “I think for many of us there’s a little bit of a sense of anxiety.”

One of the company’s biggest upcoming projects is its fleet of New Glenn orbital rockets, which it plans to launch next year. But that all depends on whether it can build the components and assemble them in a way that meets the company’s high standards. Currently, Blue Origin employees are working on parts for New Glenn boosters and other vehicles at the company’s rocket factory in Florida.

“I think everybody wants New Glenn to fly at the earliest time possible. Everybody does,” Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith told The Wall Street Journal. But “we’re not going to sacrifice doing it right.”

That mindset has at times frustrated some employees working on New Glenn. In the past, a former Blue Origin engineer positively name-dropped SpaceX for the way it incrementally upgrades rockets and works on projects. For example, when SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded back in April, it was all part of the process: Company executives said they gathered valuable data from the failed launch, and Musk has explained that he views failures as a way of identifying “unknowns” that you might not be aware of before a rocket actually takes off.

Despite the pressure from those both within Blue Origin and in the larger aerospace industry, Bezos’s company has no plans to change its strategy. With a little patience and a lot of hard work, Blue Origin is hoping that it can prove a reputable challenger to Musk’s dominant SpaceX.

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