There’s one easy knock against the space dreams of Jeff Bezos and his rocket company, Blue Origin: In its 24th year of existence, the company has yet to launch anything into orbit.

Blue Origin’s achievements to date are modest: a small vehicle known as New Shepard that carries space tourists and experiments on brief suborbital excursions. By contrast, SpaceX, the rocket company founded by the other high-profile space billionaire, Elon Musk, dominates the launch market today.

On Wednesday, Blue Origin hopes to change the narrative, hosting a launch party of sorts for its big new rocket.

In the morning, at Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, the doors of a giant garage opened. The rocket, as tall as a 32-story building, lay horizontally on the beams of a mobile launch pad.

The contraption was supported by a transport mechanism that resembles several long mechanical centipedes, but with wheels, 288 in total, instead of feet. It began to slowly roll outward and up a concrete slope, a quarter-mile trip toward the launch pad.

The rocket will undergo at least a week of testing before returning to the garage.

“I’m very confident there will be a launch this year,” Blue Origin CEO Dave Limp said in an interview. “We are going to show a lot of progress this year. “I think people are going to see how quickly we can move forward.”

Named New Glenn after John Glenn, the first American to orbit Earth in 1962, the powerful rocket will be capable of carrying about 100,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit. This is a higher lift capacity than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, but not as much as the Falcon Heavy.

New Glenn is one of several rockets expected to debut this year, adding to competition from SpaceX. In January, the Vulcan rocket, built by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, successfully made its first flight. It used two of Blue Origin’s BE-4 engines, showing that its design lived up to expectations. The first stage of New Glenn will use seven BE-4s.

Later this year, Ariane 6, a rocket designed by the European Space Agency, is expected to make its first flight, and SpaceX continues work on its giant Starship rocket that will take NASA astronauts to the surface of the moon.

Carissa Christensen, CEO of BryceTech, a space consulting firm in Alexandria, Virginia, said Amazon founder Bezos’s wealth gave Blue Origin credibility from the start.

“You’ve heard that saying,” he said. “Rockets run on money. Therefore, I believe that the large amount of resources available to that company and the commitment of its founder make it unique.”

But having the luxury of billions of dollars perhaps meant Blue Origin didn’t always act with much urgency, he said. “Maybe that leads you to a bit of a perfectionist model,” Christensen said.

The rocket now sitting on Blue Origin’s launch pad is not exactly what will launch later this year.

The propellant tanks are the ones destined for space, but the rest of the propellant may or may not be used for launch. In addition, the BE-4 engines have not yet been installed. The second stage and the nose cone are only test versions.

Over the next few days, Blue Origin will practice filling the rocket’s propellant tanks.

A few miles away, a rocket factory is busy producing parts for future New Glenn rockets.

In 2015, Bezos announced plans for Blue Origin to build and launch rockets in Florida, with the first launch in 2020. Within a couple of years, a giant Blue Origin factory rose on a vacant lot not far from the Space Center. Kennedy of NASA. , but what was happening inside remained a mystery to outsiders.

Jarrett Jones, senior vice president overseeing the development of New Glenn, said the factory was empty when he joined Blue Origin in 2019.

“We’ve gone from basically a building with tape on the floor to everything we see today,” he said during a tour of the factory in late January.

The spacious factory, spanning 650,000 square feet, is filled but not crammed with partially built rockets. Rocket parts enter one side of the factory and are assembled at stations that stretch across the factory floor, which is four football fields long.

An upper section of a New Glenn booster rose in the center of the factory, with huge fins on top. “They’re about 15 feet long and about eight feet deep,” said Jordan Charles, the vice president responsible for the booster. “They do very little to raise. They do a lot of going down. “They help guide the vehicle.”

New Glenn’s boosters will land on a barge in the Atlantic Ocean and then launch again, for at least 25 flights. This is similar to how SpaceX lands and reuses its Falcon 9 boosters.

Unlike SpaceX, which took a gradual fail-to-succeed approach, Blue Origin hopes everything works on the first try and that its engineers already know enough about landing New Shepard’s much smaller boosters.

“The software, the guidance, it’s all very similar to what we’ve done at New Shepard and it gives us a lot of confidence,” Mr. Charles said.

Upon passing through a door, one enters another cavernous space, in this case intended for the manufacture of the cones or fairings of the rocket’s nose, which protect the payloads during the ascent through the atmosphere. New Glenn, at 23 feet in diameter, is wider than most other rockets and its fairing is twice as bulky as those used by slimmer competitors, Blue Origin says.

Once the launch pad tests are completed, the rocket will return to the garage and the stages will be disassembled.

From there, Blue Origin will begin assembling the final version of New Glenn for its first launch, installing the engines and testing them.

No release date has been announced. Blue Origin has not confirmed the first payload, but it could be two identical small NASA spacecraft for the Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers, or EscaPADE, mission, which will study the magnetic fields around Mars.

Jones said he expected two New Glenn launches this year and hopes to accelerate launches next year, up to one a month. Even approaching that pace would be impressive.

It took years for SpaceX to reach its breakneck launch rate, which now averages about twice a week. The first Falcon 9 rocket took off in 2010. It wasn’t until 2017 that the number of Falcon 9 launches reached double digits.

“We will have the equipment, the tooling capacity and the launch system to be able to immediately do 12 launches a year,” Mr. Jones said. Ultimately, the goal is 24 a year or more, he said.

Limp isn’t so sure a second New Glenn release will take off this year. “It’s hard to look around the corner because you’re going to learn a lot from the first pitch,” he said. “I would just say that I will be very happy if we get a release this year, for sure.”

He became CEO of Blue Origin in December and, at first glance, seemed like an odd choice to run a rocket company. He had worked at Amazon, overseeing the consumer electronics division that included Echo smart speakers, Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets.

As part of that job, he had some space experience leading Amazon’s Project Kuiper, which plans to launch a constellation of internet satellites to rival SpaceX’s Starlink service.

About a year ago, he decided, “I still wanted to do something new, but I just didn’t want to be in the consumer electronics field.” Bezos suggested that perhaps he could replace Bob Smith, who had decided to retire as head of Blue Origin.

“My initial reaction was, well, I don’t know much about rockets, maybe not,” Limp recalled.

But after a couple of months, Bezos convinced him “that he didn’t think Blue needed another rocket scientist,” Limp said. “We have buildings full of them. But what he needed was some leadership on the scale that Blue had become.”

He said his background in consumer electronics — taking conceptual ideas, making prototypes, turning them into finished products and then manufacturing millions of them — could help. Blue Origin isn’t going to build millions of rockets, but it will have to build more and faster.

Limp also wants Blue Origin to make decisions more quickly. “Maybe what we were doing was looking for perfection in many things,” he said.

Taking a little more risk “makes you move much, much faster,” he said.

Limp sees a future with many new business opportunities outside of Earth. “My view is that the demand for orbital launch vehicles will be much greater than people predict five years from now,” he said. “It is not going to be that Blue Origin wins, SpaceX loses or vice versa. “There will be multiple winners.”

Other Blue Origin projects include a lunar lander for NASA and the Orbital Reef space station. “They are building critical capabilities for a longer-term vision,” he said. “So there’s a method to what we’re doing.”