Hopes To Begin Passenger Flights By 2010
The race for (private) spaceflight continues to heat up... and
the latest to reveal his plans is Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos,
who recently let slip several key details of his Blue Origin, LLC's
upcoming plans to launch commercial space operations.
In a 200-plus-page draft environmental assessment report to the
FAA's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation
(AST) in Washington, DC, Blue Origin says it hopes to launch its
New Shepard Reusable Launch System into suborbital space from a
privately-owned launch site outside the southwestern Texas town of
The company aims to ultimately send the New Shepard -- which is
modelled on the single-stage Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X,
shown above) and Delta Clipper Experimental Advanced (DC-XA)
vehicles developed by the Department of Defense and NASA in the 90s
-- on commercial spaceflights to altitudes greater than 325,000
feet. The company will start out with a series of low altitude
tests, and build on those.
The New Shepard vehicle would be made up of separate propulsion
and crew modules, with the ability to carry three or more people to
the edge of space and back. The crew vehicle would ride atop the
propulsion module, similar to NASA, Russian, and Chinese manned
space capsules... with one notable exception: both the crew capsule
and the propulsion module would be fully reusable.
In the event of an emergency, the crew capsule would be able to
eject safely from the propulsion module and return to earth on its
own. Blue Origin says that depending on the nature of the
emergency, the propulsion module would also be able to steer itself
back to the landing site.
he launch vehicle will
be powered by a concentration of 90 percent hydrogen peroxide,
mixed with rocket-grade kerosene.
While the company hasn't completed development of the vehicle
just yet, Bezos said Blue Origin hopes to begin flight testing by
the end of this year, in anticipation of full-scale commercial
spaceflights launching in 2010.
Blue Origin hopes to ultimately conduct at least one flight per
week, depending on market demand, according to the environmental