Blue Origin, the private space company put together by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos more than 12 years ago, has developed a reputation for keeping its spacecraft and rocket designs secretive, but its business model has recently been unveiled. Basically, the company will rely on reusable rockets and spacecraft.
This approach is believed to be the most cost-effective, since Blue Origin will be able to conduct at least 10 flights using each vehicle. Other companies involved in the private spaceflight race have space capsule designs that enable a single flight.
Another important aspect of the plan is that the development effort will occur in incremental steps. Blue Origin is part of a select group of companies that is receiving funding through the NASA Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.
The limited group also contains the Boeing Company, Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) and Sierra Nevada Corporation. All are working towards providing NASA with the ability to send astronauts to space on American-built rockets and spacecraft.
At this time, NASA is entirely dependent on the Russian Federal Space Agency for delivering both personnel and cargo to the International Space Station, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. NASA and Congress are none too happy about this.
“It's really about developing and using vertical powered landing to drive reusable systems that can increase reliability and lower cos,” Blue Origin President and Program Manager, Rob Meyerson, said during a conference held last September.
“We believe our incremental, long-term approach is going to develop the systems and technologies and vehicles that'll result in safe and affordable human spaceflight,” he added, Space reports.
“We're beginning with suborbital as a means to gain that experience, gain that practice that'll lead on to orbital human spaceflight,” Meyerson said. The Blue Origin capsule is called New Shepherd, in recognition of NASA astronaut Alan Shepherd, who conducted the first manned suborbital flight.
Regardless of how fast companies in the CCDev competition move, the first private, manned space capsule will probably not launch before 2015.