SpaceX might be leading the charge in the realm of commercial space flight, but it’s not a one-horse race. Several other startups are working hard on their own rocket technologies and courting eager clients with the prospect of affordable satellite launches and other potential missions. One of those companies is Blue Origin, led by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos.
The company has been making slow but steady progress during its nearly two decades in operation, and tests of its rocket technology are being conducted with greater regularity than ever before. Today, Blue Origin conducted yet another launch test, sending its New Shepard capsule and rocket nearly 350,000 feet into the sky and then returning both of them safely to Earth.
The launch, which was conducted from the company’s own launch facility located in Texas, included dozens of small payloads associated with various research efforts. As Blue Origin summarized it, “the mission flew 38 payloads for a variety of schools, universities, government agencies, and private companies.”
Much like lead dog SpaceX, Blue Origin is focusing on reusable rocket technology that will enhance the company’s ability to perform multiple launches with short turn-around times and at a reduced cost. Both the rocket and the capsule performed successful soft landings, and the company declared the flight a success.
One of Blue Origin’s big bets has been on passenger flights to space. The company firmly believes that space tourism will become a thing sooner rather than later and, while it’s going to cost a huge chunk of change to score a ticket into space, the company is counting on lots and lots of wealthy folks to line up for the privilege.
As far as when the first space tourists will ride a Blue Origin rocket skyward, we still have very little idea. Successful test flights are a big step toward that eventual goal but it’s important to note that not a single person has ever ridden on one, and the safety of passengers is obviously a top priority. That said, the very first manned flights could take place before the end of 2019 if things continue to go smoothly.