Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, has won the Heinlein Prize “for his vision and leadership in commercial space activities that have led to historic firsts and reusability in the commercial spaceflight industry.” The award was announced June 20 in conjunction with the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle.
Under Bezos’ leadership, Blue Origin developed a number of technology firsts that are driving U.S. space competitiveness. The reusable BE-3, a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine, is now being used in Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. New Shepard is the first rocket ever to fly above the Karman line into space and then land vertically upon the Earth. Furthermore, it has done so multiple times with the same rocket hardware – not even removing the engine between flights. In late 2014, Blue Origin reached a commercial agreement with a private launch company to develop the BE-4 engine which could be used to power the next generation of U.S. launch vehicles.
The Heinlein Prize honors the memory of Robert A. Heinlein, and encourages progress in commercial space activities that advance Robert and Virginia Heinlein’s dream of humanity’s future in space. In addition to the award, recipients receive a Lady Vivamus sword from Heinlein’s novel, Glory Road.
Bezos, best known as the billionaire founder of Amazon, acknowledged the award in a statement: “Robert Heinlein inspired millions with his visionary—and incredibly entertaining—stories, and it’s an honor for all of us at Blue Origin to receive this award. Heinlein foresaw a thriving future with humans throughout the solar system. We won’t stop working to make that vision come true.”
Bezos is the third recipient of the Heinlein Prize. The first award was to Dr. Peter Diamandis in 2006 for the Ansari XPRIZE and SpaceShipOne, the first manned commercial vehicle to fly to space. The second prize was awarded to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2011 for the Falcon 1, the first privately-developed launch vehicle to orbit the Earth.
The award announcement comes just days after Blue Origin the New Shepard through its fourth suborbital test flight to outer space and back.