A public meeting was held June 14 in Van Horn, Texas as part of a series of steps to gain a governmental okay for Blue Origin to launch its rockets. Blue Origin is the Seattle-based company bankrolled by Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, to create and launch passenger-carrying spacecraft.

"The public information meetings are part of the environmental assessment process required by the FAA," said Gwen Griffin, a spokesperson for the rocket group. "The meetings are for the public to make comments or ask questions about Blue Origin's proposal," she told SPACE.com.

A launch operator license must be obtained from the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation in Washington, D.C.

Flights to the edge of space

According to reporter Larry Simpson of the Van Horn Advocate in Van Horn, Texas, Blue Origin representatives were in town yesterday to detail the group's rocket plans.

Taking part was Blue Origin Project Manager Rob Meyerson. Also on hand was a representative of the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation.

Meyerson said that Blue Origin intends to focus its efforts on "developing, building and operating a series of manned launch vehicles, the first of which will take off and land vertically, carrying three or more astronauts to the edge of space."

The newspaper also reported that Meyerson detailed why Blue Origin has selected a site in West Texas for its rocket operations. "Texas has been a long-standing leader in the aerospace industry and the geography of the West Texas site makes it an ideal place to develop Blue Origin's launch facility."

Incremental plan

Meyerson said Blue Origin anticipates a flight test of its vehicle in the fourth quarter of 2006. That liftoff date, however, depends on having both the rocket and launch site ready, he said.

Flight testing is to span three to five years before regular commercial flights would start, Meyerson said. "During the testing phase, we anticipate launching less than 25 times a year," the Van Horn Advocate reported Meyerson as saying.

Launch Operations Manager for Blue Origin, Ed Rutkowski, also attended the public meeting. He outlined an incremental plan to grow the launch complex - with construction to start early next year. The facilities are to be built on privately-purchased land in Culberson County, Texas.

The actual rockets are to be fabricated in Seattle, Washington. After construction, they will be hauled to the Texas launch site for launch, Rutkowski said.

Genuine passion for space

Blue Origin is on the search for willing-to-work rocketeers that want to help the firm turn paper into flying vehicles.

According to the Blue Origin web site, the company says its "hiring bar is unabashedly extreme, and we insist on keeping our team size small...measured in the dozens. This means the person occupying each and every spot must be among the most technically gifted in his or her field."

The web site also adds this note:

"You must have a genuine passion for space. Without passion, you will find what we're trying to do too difficult. There are much easier jobs. You must want to work in a small company. We are building real hardware--not PowerPoint presentations. This must excite you. You must be a builder."

Special thanks to Larry Simpson of the Van Horn Advocate for assisting in this article.