From cyberspace to outer space, the battle for supremacy of the skies between Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and PayPal founder Elon Musk is still sizzling, both in the stratosphere and the less rarified atmosphere of the court system.
Bezos, 50, heads Blue Origin LLC, a space research company which has joined with Boeing in a partnership that is expected soon to land a $3 billion NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract to develop crew capsules to give astronauts rides to and from the international space station, The Wall Street Journal
While both Bezos' firm and NASA are staying mum about exactly what the contract might involve, those familiar with the project told the Journal that Bezos also will partner with United Launch Alliance, a joining of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp., to develop new, cheaper rocket engines to replace the Russian-built RD-180 engines that drive Saturn 5 rockets into space to deliver both satellites and astronauts.
reports that concerns over Russia's military incursions into the Ukraine are causing both the Air Force and NASA to seek alternatives to using the Russian engines, fearing that supply could be cut off. Currently, there are five RD-180 engines on hand, enough to last for two years' worth of the 36 launches for which ULA has an $11 billion contract with the Air Force.
Blue Origin is looking at testing its New Shepherd suborbital capsule and reusable orbital technology, the Journal reports.
Meanwhile, Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, has filed legal action in an attempt to force the federal government to allow open public competition in bids for national security launches, Reuters reports. It is also involved in a patent battle with Blue Origin for "Sea Landing of Space Launch Vehicles and Associated Systems," Satellite Today
The lawsuit argues that Blue Origin's patents should be "unpatentable" because they follow known technology, stating, "The 'rocket science' claimed in the (Blue Origin) patent was, at best, 'old hat' by 2009. The advantages of landing a reusable launch vehicle at sea have also long been obvious and straightforward to persons of ordinary skill in the art."
The rivalry between Musk and Bezos has been underway for a long time. Bezos seems to be well ahead, both in terms of personal wealth — Forbes
reports Bezos' worth at $50 billion and Musk's at $9.6 billion — and in having the inside edge on the new NASA contract.
Musk has publicly blasted Bezos' Blue Orgin, telling Reuters last year
, that “I think it’s a bit silly because Blue Origin hasn’t even done a suborbital flight to space, let alone an orbital one. If one were to extrapolate their progress, they might reach orbit in five years, but that seems unlikely.”
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