Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin is building a huge rocket factory in Florida

By Alyssa
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Byline: Tim Fernholz

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Blue Origin, the space company founded by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, said it broke ground on a 750,000-square-foot “orbital vehicle” factory in Florida, to build full-scale rockets that could reach the International Space Station or the altitudes where satellites orbit.

“We’re clearing the way for the production of a reusable fleet of orbital vehicles that we will launch and land, again and again,” Bezos confirmed via email.

Blue Origin’s current rocket, the New Shepard, became the first vertical take-off vehicle to fly to space, land on Earth, and fly to space again earlier this year. However, the vehicle lacks the capability to earn money doing anything but giving people a good view.

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Now the company is aiming to build more useful rockets to compete with companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin that launches most US government satellites.

Previously, Blue Origin announced it would build a new engine for ULA to help pave the way for its own orbital rockets. (And a ULA executive got in hot water earlier this year after praising Blue Origin’s efforts on the engine over that of another company working on the project, saying that ULA is “doing all this work for both of them, and the chances of Aerojet Rocketdyne coming in and beating the billionaire is pretty low. We’re putting a whole lot more energy into BE-4, Blue Origin.”)

That engine will be initially manufactured at Blue Origin’s main facility in Washington state before moving to an as-yet identified full-scale manufacturing facility, but it will be installed in the rockets built in Florida.

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The new Blue Origin factory will share many of the technical features pioneered at SpaceX’s California rocket factory, including large-scale friction stir welding to join together the body of the rocket, and “automated composite processing equipment,” or the 3D-printed carbon fiber to make things like the faring or nose cone of the rocket that protects a satellite during launch.

Slated to open its doors in December 2017, the factory would mark Blue Origin’s ability to compete directly with ULA and SpaceX in the rocket business, instead of simply being a partner or a critic of the larger enterprises.

Around that time, however, Boeing and SpaceX will be gearing up to be the first private companies to fly humans into orbit.



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Hey partner, can you keep a secret?

By Catherine
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By Catherine Bolgar

Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in aerospace and defense depend more than ever on suppliers to deliver innovation. That means sharing information and collaborating closely with third parties.

How can companies protect their intellectual property (IP) in such a fluid environment? The stakes are especially high in aerospace and defense, where technology is key to being competitive and is costly to develop. In addition, the nature of these sectors makes it difficult to apply some of the best practices used elsewhere to protect trade secrets.

“Aerospace and defense companies are somewhat unique in a couple of ways,” says Pamela Passman, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Responsible Enterprise And Trade, or CREATe, a Washington-based nongovernmental organization that helps companies around the world prevent piracy, counterfeiting, trade-secret theft and corruption. “There is the importance of collaboration and sharing across the supply chain” in general, she says. In addition, “there are incentives, at least in the U.S., in Department of Defense procurement to involve small and medium-size enterprises. Increasingly, it’s a highly regulated procurement space. That includes regulations around cyber risk.”

SMEs often are too small and unsophisticated to have adequate cyber and management controls to protect IP, Ms. Passman notes. If they are growing very fast they may not be as rigorous in vetting or training new hires as are some other institutions.

Larger institutions often have someone in charge of protecting IP. “Usually it’s part of the legal or research and development function,” she says. “We recommend having a cross-functional team that includes IP, R&D, cyber security, procurement and supply chain and human resources.”

Human resources’ involvement is important because insiders—who might be direct employees or contractors of either the OEM itself or suppliers—commit a lot of IP theft. A Feb. 2014 report by CREATe and PwC estimated that trade-secret theft amounts to 1%-3% of U.S. gross domestic product. “It’s significant,” Ms. Passman says. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation made a film, “Company Man,” to educate companies about protecting trade secrets.

New hires usually sign agreements not to divulge IP, but those requirements need to be reinforced throughout their employment as well as when they leave the company, she says. That goes not only for employees of OEMs, but also for those of suppliers.

Companies need to be clear about what is protected IP:

It’s only a secret under the law if a company takes reasonable steps to keep it secret,” Ms. Passman points out.

Employees, especially scientists and authors of software, frequently look at their work the way artists do, assembling portfolios of their output to show to prospective employers. The problem is, under most [U.S.] state laws, when the employee creates their work in the course of their employment, the employer owns that work and it sometimes contains trade secrets, says Claude M. Stern, co-chair of the intellectual property litigation practice in the San Francisco office of at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, an international litigation-only law firm.

Employees might not be acting maliciously or with willful intent, but they would still be subject to a suit, Mr. Stern says, adding, “Companies are relatively rigorous about looking at their markets and who’s doing what. When a company comes up with something out of the blue that’s similar to my secret, I’m going to look at who’s working there.”

One way to protect IP is to be careful about who is privy to it and not to provide all the critical IP to one key supplier. However, companies in specialized sectors like aerospace and defense might not have a multitude of supplier choices. “In the global supply chain, sourcing is very challenging,” Ms. Passman says. “Certain materials or components may only be available in certain parts of the world.”

Companies also have conflicting priorities. While having multiple suppliers might better protect IP, many companies are reducing the number of suppliers in order to cut costs, according to a report by consulting firm Oliver Wymans. Aerospace and defense OEMs are pushing more responsibility and risk onto suppliers, and entrusting them with complete modules and systems, as well as R&D and innovation.

“In order to develop technology, it’s almost inevitable that the developer will disclose trade secrets to its vendor,” Mr. Stern says. “The question is, under what conditions? The protections are, or should be, in the contract.”

Patents help protect IP, but companies also need to protect evolving R&D that isn’t yet ready for patent application, or IP they don’t want to share at all.

Recourse for trade-secret theft can be difficult. The U.S. Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016 took effect in May, giving companies greater ability to fight IP theft. The law lets companies file civil lawsuits in federal court; previously they had to sue in state courts, where laws varied. The federal government can file criminal charges for trade-secret theft.

The European Council adopted a directive on trade secrets in May to harmonize laws across the EU. Member states have two years to adopt legislation in line with the directive.

Some industries, such as those in mobile phones and business software, sue more frequently than others to protect trade secrets. Defense companies, by contrast, “are frequently, but not always, loath to sue their contractors,” Mr. Stern says. “They’re so close to their partners, they feel it would be mutually assured destruction. But in the appropriate case, we do see lawsuits, even among business partners.”


Catherine Bolgar is a former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. For more from Catherine Bolgar, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join the Future Realities discussion.

Photos courtesy of iStock

Smarter Solutions for Smarter Ideation

By Estelle
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An Interview with Anne Asensio, VP Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes

This Article has been written by Teshia Treuhaft and originally appeared at Core 77


While the terms ‘internet of things,’ ‘smart objects’ and ‘connected devices’ seem to be regularly splashed across the pages of newspapers, design briefs, crowdfunding campaigns and conference topics—relatively little is discussed about what tools designers need in order to design smart devices.

Some startups and corporate departments are beginning to understand how the inclusion of technology in our everyday lives is changing us. With this realization comes changing demands for product teams looking to innovate. This usually includes designers working alongside engineers and software developers, oftentimes with a new set of tools to match. Among the tools already available to designers, many of the emerging industry standards have come from Dassault Systèmes. Dassault Systèmes has long recognized the cross disciplinary needs of designers and responded with several solutions, allowing for the creation of holistic design experiences, not just products.

As product teams become more interdisciplinary, the process for creating products has expanded to include engineers, scientists, developers and many more key players. As the requirements of designing change—so does the process of design thinking, adapting to what Dassault Systèmes has named ‘Social Ideation.’ Social Ideation is the method by which the iterative process is expanded beyond just including designers. Each phase of ideation can be visualized for not just the design-savvy, but for all members of an interdisciplinary team.

To make tools for social ideation not only work, but work fast, precise and for team members with different competencies is a big task. To understand what is needed, we asked someone who has been linking design methodologies and fostering collaboration in multidisciplinary teams for years, Anne Asensio. Asensio, came from General Motors and Renault to join Dassault Systèmes in 2007 as Vice President of Design Experience. She sat down to share her view on the need for social ideation across disciplines and the new responsibilities of designers in the next generations.

Anne Asensio, VP Design Experience at Dassault Systèmes

Core77: Is the consumer expectation for experience over product a recent occurrence?

Anne Asensio: This is something we have seen coming from quite some time. People have always been interested in this notion of experience because it’s part of our lives, but now when we are talking about the experience it’s because I think that we have passed the time for just producing products for functional aspects of life in the new economy. We must begin looking at a much higher level of expectation.

The digital effect is that everything is now contextualized. Digital devices with the capacity to be customized and configured can now become a little personal space that you can immerse yourself into anytime you want. It delivers this notion of being part of that moment and that’s a different expectation in terms of experience. What we are seeing is an accelerated view of the natural evolution of human experience due to the digital devices that are transforming our lives.

What kinds of tools are necessary to design these experiences?

What I am personally interested in is design experience. You might ask what the difference is between design experience and experience design. In experience design we have seen an incredible expansion of design methodologies and practices in the area of digital design. The act of just designing through screen-based software is necessary for designers to do the work they needed to do—that is, to humanize the relationship between man and technology.

But I believe that the world of design is not just to help humanize the evolution of technology—I believe we have a particular aim, which is to question where we are going on a broader level, to create designed experiences. To do this we have to bring meaning and question the type of experience we are providing. Especially now that technology gives us the total liberty and expertise to do anything, bringing with it a high level of responsibility.

“We have seen an incredible expansion of design methodologies and practices in the area of digital design” says Asensio.

So has the designer’s role in multidisciplinary teams changed?

Designers have always been serving this function: acting as a contributor among a multidisciplinary team while bringing their own perspective. But today, designers help everyone visualize what they are doing collaboratively in order to make decisions—that is quite new. What the new tools are doing is enabling two aspects: the capability to not only design, but also to represent and the ability to see what others are doing in order to help them reduce risk and uncertainty.

This is absolutely critical when it comes to making decisions about new products because it helps people embrace disruptive innovation—not because they are coming up with better ideas—but by allowing for synthesis. Now you can combine the capabilities of teams into a physical or virtual medium and share progress throughout the whole process. This model can be continuously transformed—it can keep being changed. You have the perfect subject to apply the typical design methodology of iterations—test, fail, change, and do it again.

What are the big challenges facing multidisciplinary teams?

I don’t know if I would say challenges or opportunities. The fact is, what you see is a convergence of digital technology and a convergence of very interesting capacities that are coming from different industries. For Dassault Systèmes, we come from the formalization of the product and we extend it with physics, simulation all the way to imaginaries and meanings. to reach the point where we can embrace more team members in the process and get something very complex to be seen, interacted with and visualized.

What is really key is that wherever you come from, whatever meaning you are looking for, we want to allow anyone the ability to deliver their vision of the future. That is very important because right now, team members can be accused of not being transparent, and I can see a way in which everyone will have a stake in the way we are designing the world.

“We are not at a moment where desginers need to return to their capacity to project ideas, both imaginary and visionary” says Asensio. 

You mean they will have a stake in it because anyone can have the tools?

All of those capacities that were designed and developed in a particular area of application—be it manufacturing, design, science, entertainment etc.—are now merging. That convergence, we see today in the Internet of Things. All those aspects are just something we are visualizing today—it’s a way to see what’s happening, and react.

I believe that today we are looking at something more forward thinking, more visionary. Basically asking: we have these capabilities, but where do we start? How should we be innovating and why? What would be the best way of innovating, embracing some questions that are more on the social and not just the technical side. Answers are not going to only be found on the technical side.

What abilities does the next generation of young designers need to help find those answers?

We were designers before the industrial era. Everyone was a craftsman or artisan with the ability to make a beautiful, signature object. The industrial era then put the designers into a different situation—they must humanize. Some designers were able to push to the level of questioning, in a critical manner, how the objects produced by the industry were affecting our society, our lives, our ethical approach of living our condition as humans. Now that era is done. We are now at a moment where designers need to return to their capacity to project ideas both imaginary and visionary.

That leads me to believe that young designers need to not only establish themselves in their role of humanizing technology but critically question what is happening. It’s no longer what you’re going to be doing—but what you’re going to be. Period.

Thanks to Anne Asensio for speaking with us. To read more about Dassault Systèmes Solutions and Social Ideation & Creative Design, check out their website

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