Billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned space company Blue Origin aims to carry the first passengers on its New Shepard space vehicle as early as April, CNBC reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
Blue Origin completed the fourteenth test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule on Thursday, marking one of the last remaining steps before the company flies its first crew to space, the report said.
Responding to a Reuters request for comment on the report, a company spokesperson said “this is rumour and speculative – not confirmed.”
The CNBC report said Blue Origin aims to launch the second test flight within six weeks, or by late February, and the first crewed flight six weeks after that, or by early April.
“This (BE-7) is the engine that will take the first woman to the surface of the Moon,” Bezos said in a post on Instagram with a video of the engine test this week at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
The BE-7 engine, which Blue Origin has been developing for years, has tallied 1,245 seconds of test-fire time and will power the company’s National Team Human Landing System lunar lander.
Blue Origin leads a “national team” as the prime contractor that it assembled in 2019 to help build its Blue Moon lander. That team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper.
Blue Origin has vied for lucrative government contracts in recent years and is competing with rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Dynetics, owned by Leidos Holdings, to win a contract to build NASA’s next human lunar landing system to ferry humans to the moon in the next decade.
In April, NASA awarded a lunar lander development contract to Blue Origin’s team worth $579 million (roughly Rs. 4,300 crores), as well as two other companies: SpaceX which received $135 million (roughly Rs. 1,000 crores) to help develop its Starship system and Leidos-owned Dynetics which won $253 million (roughly Rs. 1,900 crores).
© Thomson Reuters 2020
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