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Crew capsule assembly
A Blue Origin engineer assembles a New Shepard parachute cover, with the crew capsule in the background at the company’s production facility in Kent, Wash. (Credit: Blue Origin)

Blue Origin, the space venture founded by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, has spent $14.1 million to buy 31 acres of land that’s earmarked for expansion of its headquarters in Kent, Wash.

Purchase of the undeveloped land at and around 21601 76th Av., just southwest of Blue Origin’s 26-acre main office and production facility, was reported in King County records last week. The transaction was brought to light on Tuesday by Seattle’s Daily Journal of Commerce.

The property has long been owned by members of Barnier family, who have been farming in the Kent Valley since the 1800s, and was sold through Bar-Gem LLC, a family business entity.

That plot of land has been the subject of Blue Origin’s expansion plans for more than a year. Kent land-use records describe a project that calls for the construction of about 236,000 square feet of warehouse area, and 102,900 square feet of office space. There’d also be significant roadway improvements, landscaping and paved areas for parking and truck maneuvering.

In a separate transaction executed last year, Blue Origin bought a 120,000-square-foot warehouse building across the street from its main headquarters complex.

We’ve reached out to Blue Origin for comment, going back to February when we first reported on this project, and we’ll update this report with anything we hear back.

Blue Origin has plenty of other expansion projects in the works, including a 750,000-square-foot assembly plant and a leased launch complex in Florida for its orbital-class New Glenn rocket; and a 200,000-square-foot rocket engine production plant that’s planned in Alabama.

The company currently builds its rocket engines and suborbital New Shepard spaceships at the Kent facility, and ships them down to West Texas for final testing and launch.

This month, Blue Origin began uncrewed flight tests of the latest version of its New Shepard rocket ship in Texas, with the aim of flying tourists and researchers to the edge of space starting in a year or so. It also started moving in workers at the Florida factory, with New Glenn launches due to begin by 2020.

Bezos also has proposed a “Blue Moon” cargo delivery system for lunar operations, and expects to see a city built on the moon someday. Back in April, he told reporters that he sells a billion dollars’ worth of Amazon stock annually to support his privately held Blue Origin venture.

Blue Origin’s expansion plans for Kent reflect the rapid rise in the company’s workforce, which was listed at 600 employees less than two years ago and has now reportedly topped 1,400. Most of those positions — and most of the 122 job openings listed by Blue Origin — are in Kent.

Last week’s land purchase signals that Blue Origin will be keeping the bulk of its workforce at the Kent headquarters, even as it expands to other regions. Bezos’ ultimate goal for Blue Origin is to see “millions of people living and working in space,” so there should be plenty for those employees in Kent to do.

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