“Day One” isn’t just for Amazon anymore: Billionaire Jeff Bezos says that first-day feeling of being fired up about a business venture applies to Blue Origin and the commercial space industry as well.
Bezos, the founder of Amazon as well as his privately held Blue Origin space venture, made the comment in a newly published interview with Via Satellite’s Mark Holmes, which was conducted during the magazine’s Satellite 2018 conference in March. Here’s how Bezos summarized the message he wanted to get across:
“I would be super optimistic about the future. The message would be that I think this is ‘Day One’ for the space industry. It is a big industry, it is already a significant industry and I think it is going to get much larger. I think we will find new uses for space that people haven’t even figured out yet, in addition to communications. I don’t know what they are, but I want to see that entrepreneurial explosion in space. I want to see dynamism. I want to see the same thing in space that I have witnessed on the internet over the last 20 years, where a thousand experiments are done and [there are] lots of start-up companies.”
“Day One” has been a mantra at Amazon since Bezos used the phrase in a letter to shareholders in 1997. The idea is that every day at a business should be marked by the same enthusiasm, restlessness and customer focus that’s felt on the first day of a startup’s existence.
In last year’s letter, Bezos went so far as to say there should never be a “Day Two” at Amazon. “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death,” he wrote. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”
It makes sense that Bezos also applies his “Day One” philosophy to his space venture, headquartered in Kent, Wash. But in his public pronouncements, he usually emphasizes Blue Origin’s slow but steady pace. “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast,” he has said. Blue Origin’s motto is “Gradatim Ferociter,” which is Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.” Its mascot is a tortoise, for heaven’s sake.
The Via Satellite interview includes hints that Bezos is giving a lot of thought about how to get from today’s “Day One” to a day when millions of people are living and working in space — and that some of his thinking parallels the strategies followed by his billionaire rival, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Like Musk, Bezos repeatedly emphasizes the view that rocket reusability is the key to bringing down the cost of access to space dramatically. Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital-class rocket has a fully reusable booster, and the New Glenn orbital-class rocket will have a first-stage booster that lands itself on an oceangoing ship (similar to SpaceX’s autonomous drone landing ship).
Like Musk, Bezos intends to make his orbital rocket’s upper stage reusable as well. “That will be the next big opportunity,” he said. “That’s a different problem, it’s an interesting problem.”
And like Musk, Bezos sees the satellite industry as the big near-term beneficiary for cheaper access to space.
“There will be a new equilibrium found, where satellite manufacturers and operators will replace the satellites more frequently with faster upgrades, giving them more opportunities to innovate,” Bezos said,
For now, Bezos is concentrating on New Shepard, which could start taking people on trips to the edge of space and back by the end of this year; and on New Glenn, which is due to enter service in 2020 and has already attracted some satellite launch deals.
What’s next? “We are really focused on launch right now, and what the future holds is hard to say,” Bezos said in the interview. “I don’t know for sure.”
But the bigger picture is that Bezos sees Blue Origin as providing the infrastructure that other companies can use to extend commerce into the final frontier, just as the U.S. Postal Service and other mailing services provided the infrastructure to get Amazon going. The company is already working on a “Blue Moon” lander that could make Amazon-style deliveries to the lunar surface — and perhaps to other space destinations as well.
What else does Blue Origin have up its sleeve? And what kind of niche will Bezos’ company fill alongside SpaceX, Boeing, Orbital ATK, Virgin and everyone else in the space business? Those answers will come on a future Day One.
Jeff Bezos is due to receive the National Space Society’s Gerard K. O’Neill Memorial Award for Space Settlement Advocacy on Friday during a ceremony at the International Space Development Conference in Los Angeles. Stay tuned for GeekWire’s reports from the conference, starting later this week.