After several years of development, Jeff Bezos’ private space company Blue Origin plans to deliver its first passengers to the frontier of Earth and space in a few months.
Blue Origin has completed the 14th test flight of the New Shepard launch vehicle and capsule. In the course of a successful test flight, dubbed NS-14, the debut of a new booster and an upgraded capsule took place. In addition to the updates, CNBC has learned that NS-14 is one of the final steps before Blue Origin sends its first crew 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.
In addition, the source says Blue Origin plans to launch a second test flight within six weeks or by the end of February. The first crewed flight will take place within six weeks after that or by the beginning of April.
Blue Origin’s next flight, the NS-15, will include a crew loading and unloading test, sources said.
Recall that New Shepard is designed to transport people on trips to the very border of the Earth’s atmosphere and space at an altitude of over 100 km. The capsule spends several minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth and is equipped with massive windows through which passengers have a view of Earth and outer space. Both rockets and capsules are reusable: boosters return to landing vertically, and capsules land under the control of a set of parachutes.