SpaceX, by contrast, has ascended. Since December 2015, the company has successfully flown more than 100 orbital missions. It has developed and flown the world’s most powerful rocket, the Falcon Heavy, and may soon debut its still more titanic Starship launch system. With the Starlink Internet constellation, SpaceX now operates more satellites than any nation or company in the world. And in 2020, thanks to SpaceX, NASA broke its dependency on Russia for human spaceflight. NASA astronauts now ride to space in style inside the sleek Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Blue Origin has also lost out when it comes to large government contracts worth billions of dollars, something Bezos craves as he seeks to find some return on his massive investment in Blue Origin. In 2020, the Department of Defense said it would only allow United Launch Alliance and SpaceX to bid on national security launch contracts in the mid-2020s. Blue Origin protested and lost. Then, in April, NASA chose SpaceX alone for a prestigious Human Landing System. This came after Bezos showily unveiled his company’s “Blue Moon” lander in 2019. Blue Origin protested this, too, and a decision is expected in early August. It would come as a surprise if Blue Origin succeeds.
In short, a once-promising space race has become something of a damp squib. In late 2019, while reporting for my book on the origins of SpaceX, Liftoff, I asked Musk why he thought Blue Origin had fallen behind. “Bezos is not great at engineering, to be frank,” Musk replied.
Liftoff by Eric Berger is well worth reading.