During a webcast of the test flight on Tuesday, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith said only that the company was “very close” to being ready to fly humans.
New Shepard is made up of two parts – a small, dome-shaped capsule with gaping rectangular windows and a 60-foot-tall rocket booster that blasts the capsule to three times the speed of sound as it hurtles toward space. The capsule is designed to detach from the rocket near the tip of its trajectory, climb more than 60 miles, and hover in weightlessness for a few minutes before falling back to Earth.
New Shepard flew several experiments for NASA during Tuesday̵
Blue Origin is also designing a much larger rocket called the New Glenn that the company hopes will put cargo and satellites into orbit. This is a much more difficult and faster journey than New Shepard’s brief suborbital endeavors.
However, in all of Blue Origin’s plans for futuristic space technologies, the company is often viewed as an outsider in the commercial space exploration scene, where Elon Musk’s SpaceX dominates the headlines. While Blue Origin, founded in 2000, never sent humans into space or put a rocket into orbit, SpaceX, a company two years its junior, is launching huge numbers of satellites, sending astronauts to the International Space Station, and testing flying a Mars Missile prototype.
Both Blue Origin and SpaceX are closely associated with NASA, although SpaceX has raised billions more in government contract money over the years.
And both companies plan to work closely with the space agency to bring astronauts – two people including the very first woman – back to the moon.