>> Start with some of the basics.>> After conquering e-commerce, Jeff Bezos is on a mission to conquer space. Sources tell Reuters the Amazon CEO is jumpstarting that effort at his 18-year-old rocket company, Blue Origin, launching it into a massive growth drive to pull it out of startup mode.
Central to that pivot has been hiring hundreds of engineers over the last few years, but Bezos isn't stopping there. According to a top customer, he plans to double its current workforce to about 3,000 employees over the next 2 to 3 years. Reuters' Erik Johnson is at Blue Origin's headquarters in Kent, Washington.
>> Behind the hiring binge at Blue Origin is Bezos' view that the company has been stuck too long in startup mode, focused too keenly on research and development. And he wants to take the company into its next stage, which is a full-fledged operating business. Blue Origin officials have talked about a 2020 time frame for flying the New Glenn rocket, which is their heavy lift launcher that's under development right now.
>> The New Glenn is central to the company's hopes of winning lucrative military and commercial contracts. But Bezo's push comes amidst science that the rocket may slip behind schedule. Company engineers are still finalizing details on New Glenn's design and just beginning to build model components, which will need to undergo extreme tests.
>> Timing is crucial in the aerospace industry because a slip on something, delivering your new launcher too late will give your competitors time to come in and grab new customers and market share.>> That's already an issue for Bezos, as Blue Origin has found itself lagging behind SpaceX.
Elon Musk's rival startup launched three years after Blue Origin but has secured billions of dollars worth of contracts, including deals with NASA and the US Department of Defense. Still Blue Origin has yet to obtain a top secret security clearance, according to sources. A crucial step in certifying the New Glenn to launch US spy satellites.
In the meantime, NASA and the US Air Force are directing business to SpaceX.