In the fast-growing expanse that is the aerospace industry, where innovation and ambition collide, one name has space the collective imagination: Blue Origin.
Led by the enigmatic Jeff Bezos, this space startup venture has not only set its sights on the stars but has — so far — managed to navigate the treacherous terrain of corporate finances with remarkable finesse.
Join us as we unravel the captivating story of how Blue Origin makes money.
Coming up next
What does Blue Origin do?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin. His vision was to see millions of people living and working in space for the benefit of Earth. The goal is to tap into the limitless resources of space and move industries damaging to the Earth into space in the quest to preserve nature.
Work is underway to develop reusable launch vehicles and in-space systems that are safe, low-cost, and serve the needs of civil, commercial, and defense customers.
Blue Origin’s current and future efforts include flying astronauts to space on New Shepard, developing their New Glenn launch vehicle, and returning humans to the surface of the moon.
How does Blue Origin work?
Bezos retired from his post as Amazon CEO in 2021, ostensibly to focus on this project, and has spent more than $1 billion of his own money to bring the dream to fruition.
Not very much is known about the inner workings of Blue Origin. To some, it pales in comparison to what SpaceX has achieved and seems like a pie-in-the-sky venture, but Bezos brings years of experience, billions of dollars, and personal interest. That's a good thing for a company that's looking to escape SpaceX's shadow.
How Blue Origin makes money
Blue Origin makes money through space tourism flights, selling engines, and contracts with NASA for spaceflight.
Blue Origin’s CEO Bob Smith told The New York Times that the company had “gone from virtually zero revenue to now making hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue annually.”
People have bought into the idea that the lifespan of Earth is in its death throes resulting in the sale of nearly $100 million worth of tickets to embark on tourist flights into space. Speaking with CNBC, Bezos says the “demand is very high.”
The company held a public auction for a seat on its first flight with Bezos, which went under the hammer for $28 million. Virgin Galactic, its nearest rival, asked for $200,000-$500,000 for seats on its future flights.
Blue Origin also makes money on sales of its BE-4 Engine, which they say is "the most powerful liquid natural gas (LNG) fueled, oxygen-rich staged combustion engine made in the U.S." United Launch Alliance, a competitor, are one of their customers.
NASA is also a Blue Origin customer. In 2023, NASA awarded Blue Origin the contract for "the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) contract. ESCAPADE is part of the NASA Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program; it is a dual spacecraft mission to study Mars’ magnetosphere."
However, the relationship between NASA, Blue Origin, and SpaceX has been testy at best. Blue Origin filed a complaint with the United States Court of Federal Claims on August 13, 2021, challenging NASA's $2.9 billion award to SpaceX for developing the lunar lander, Starship HLS, as part of the Artemis program. However, on November 4, 2021, the Court of Federal Claims dismissed the complaint.
Future growth engine
For Blue Origin, growth lies in promoting and incentivizing increased flight sales into space. Reusable spacecraft is key ti that, as the cost of access to space is quite prohibitive for all but the deepest pockets.
Blue Origin's spacecraft have been designed with reusability in mind, but New Glenn, their larger launcher, is not fully reusable like SpaceX's huge Starship. Even so, Blue Origin's cost to orbit will be lower compared to typical launchers that are not reusable.
- SpaceX. Founded by serial entrepreneur and risk-taker Elon Musk, SpaceX is Blue Origin's primary competitor with a stellar track record. Their huge Starship launcher could revolutionize access to space and intercontinental travel.
- Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab is a private aerospace company specializing in designing, manufacturing, and launching small satellites. They aim to provide frequent and affordable access to space by developing lightweight rockets and efficient launch systems.
- Virgin Galactic. Founded by Richard Branson and the Virgin Group conglomerate, which retains an 11.9% stake through Virgin Investments. Virgin Galactic's share price has been extremely volatile.