UPDATE: Story first posted June 13, 2005 at 11:05 a.m. EDT
Details of a new passenger-carrying rocket are emerging from Blue Origin, the Seattle-based company spearheaded by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com. The first test flight of the rocket in unpiloted mode is slated for late next year.
On the group's web site, they have posted an update on their reusable launch vehicle (RLV) work. The exposure is tied to steps needed in securing an operator license from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation in Washington, D.C.
That FAA office has had several meetings with Blue Origin, said Patricia Smith, Associate Administrator for the Office of Commercial Space Transportation. She said that a representative from her office will be participating in Blue Origin activities this week.
"Blue Origin is having public scoping meetings this week in Texas to tell people what they are doing and hear and assess any public concerns about the impact of launch activities on the environment," Smith told SPACE.com. "These scoping meetings are one of the activities required under the National Environmental Protection Act," she added.
Vertical takeoff and landing
The company wants to create "an enduring human presence in space," explains the Blue Origin Internet site. "Our initial research efforts are focused on reusable liquid propulsion systems, low cost operations, life support, abort systems and human factors. We are currently working to develop a crewed, suborbital launch system that emphasizes safety and low cost of operations."
According to a document that's part of the Blue Origin web site, rocket launchings would take place from the group's facilities under development in Culberson County, Texas. The reusable launch vehicle (RLV) would haul paying passengers on suborbital jaunts. The group's rocket would be comprised of a propulsion module and a crew capsule. Hydrogen peroxide and kerosene are to be used as propellants.
The Bezos booster would be fully reusable, flying autonomously under control of on-board computers. There would be no ground control during nominal flight conditions, the web site explains.
Lifting off vertically from a concrete pad, the craft would land vertically in an area near the launch pad. That flight profile is similar to the trajectory flown by the Pentagon/NASA-sponsored Delta Clipper Experimental (DC-X).
The DC-X was built under contract at McDonnell Douglas and repeatedly flew from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico starting in the early 1990s.
"Blue Origin intends to perform unmanned RLV developmental test flights from the proposed facility beginning in the third quarter of 2006. Once the technology has been thoroughly tested, Blue Origin would begin passenger flight service using the RLV at a maximum rate of 52 launches per year. The RLV would carry three or more passengers per operation."