Blue Origin’s suborbital reusable vertical takeoff and landing rocket is almost ready

Blue Origin is very close to making sub-orbital flights. Blue Origin will let researchers and other companies take a payload up into space—topping out at 100 kilometers—for about three to four minutes. The hope is that Blue Origin will be able to do this at a moment’s notice and do it often. Blue Origin is funded by multi-billionaire Jeff Bezos.

Blue Origin, LLC is developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. This is a long-term effort, which we’re pursuing incrementally, step by step. We’re currently focused on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing rocket-powered Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology.

A picture from a launch made in 2012

Blue Origin has talked about doing far more complex orbital flights in 2018, but the sub-orbital business remains hush-hush. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic and XCOR have committed to launching sub-orbital flights in 2014 if all goes according to plan.

NASA funding in 2013

NASA and Blue Origin of Kent, Wash., signed an agreement this week to extend their Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) partnership in an unfunded capacity. Between now and mid-2014, Blue Origin will continue to advance the subsystems of its biconic-shaped spacecraft, putting emphasis on power and actuation systems, in-space propulsion, multiplex avionics and flight mechanics. The company also will progress the spacecraft’s guidance, navigation and control systems.

Later this year, Blue Origin will focus on test firing its liquid-oxygen and liquid-hydrogen fueled BE-3 engines, building on the full-scale thrust chamber testing accomplished during the funded portion of its CCDev2 agreement.

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