Billionaire Jeff Bezos-owned space company Blue Origin has just launched a rocket called ‘Mannequin Skywalker’ that could make way for space tourism flights this year.
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.
Sara Blask, a spokesperson for Blue Origin said: “The capsule will be outfitted with upgrades to the crew capsule for the astronaut experience as the program nears human space flight.”
“The upgrades include improvements to environmental features such as acoustics and temperature regulation inside the capsule, crew display panels, and speakers with a microphone and push-to-talk button at each seat.”
Bezos aims to carry the first passengers on its New Shepard space vehicle as early as April. The company offered no details on Wednesday about how it would move from the design phase to moon missions in this time frame.
Blue Origin, founded in 2000 by Bezos, Amazon.com Inc’s chief executive, has launched and landed its suborbital rocket New Shepard more than a dozen times, and aims to complete development of its much bigger workhorse orbital rocket, New Glenn, by next year.
Bezos aims to provide government and private customers low-cost access to space, though he trails rival billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
Blue has vied for lucrative government contracts in recent years and is competing with SpaceX and Leidos-owned Dynetics 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, as well as two other companies: SpaceX which received $135 million to help develop its Starship system and Leidos-owned Dynetics which won $253 million.
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