After years in development, Jeff Bezos’ personal space company Blue Origin aims to take its first passengers to the edge of space in a few months.
Blue Origin completed the fourteenth test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule on Thursday. Called the NS-14, the successful test flight introduced a new booster and an upgraded capsule.
Beyond the upgrade, CNBC has found that the NS-14 marked one of the last remaining stages before flying the first crew of Blue Origin into space.
The flight was the first of two “stable configuration” test flights, people familiar with Blue Origin’s plans told CNBC. The stable configuration means the company plans to avoid major changes between this flight and the next.
Additionally, those stated that Blue Origin aims to begin a second test flight within six weeks or by the end of February, and then six weeks or the first flight in early April.
The next flight of the Blue Origin, NS-15, will also include unloading and unloading tests of the crew, people said.
The company declined CNBC’s request for comment on New Shepard’s plans.
An ambitious timeline
The New Shepard schedule is ambitious, one of the people warned, with the goal of flying every six weeks coming from the company’s top leadership. The former Blue Origin Mission NS-13 flew in October after being delayed from September due to a power supply issue – and it also came after a nine-month hiatus between flights.
The person also noted that one of the outstanding functions for New Shepard’s NS-15 launch is to end software qualification reviews, which he said are not expected to be finished by late March or April.
New Shepard is designed to transport people to the edge of space, reaching a height of 340,000 feet (or more than 100 kilometers). The capsule spends several minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth, with massive windows to give passengers a view. Both the rocket and capsule are reusable, with boosters returning to land vertically and landing under the control of a set of capsule parachutes.
The NS-14 mission underwent several upgrades to the crew capsule, including an audio push-to-talk system for astronauts to talk on mission control, a new crew alert system panel on each seat, noise reduction Cushioned wall linings and sound suppression equipment are included. In capsules, and in addition to environmental systems such as air condition and humidity control.
Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Bezos, and now has more than 3,500 employees with its headquarters in Kent, Washington. To date, Blue Origin has successfully launched New Shepard 14 times, and landed rocket boosters 13 times in a row. The company has produced four New Shepard boosters in total, of which the fourth was launched for the first time on Thursday.
Its third booster has flown seven times in a row and will be used to fly microgravity research payloads for NASA and other customers. New Shepard is a fully autonomous system, with no pilots.
Bezos personally funds the development of Blue Origin by selling part of its stock at Amazon. While he has previously stated that he sells nearly $ 1 billion worth of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos recently increased his sales of Amazon stock, worth more than $ 10 billion in 2020. Has destroyed the cash.