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Blue Origin: Rocket Plans Spotlighted

UPDATE: Story first posted June 13, 2005 at 11:05 a.m. EDT

Details of a new passenger-carrying rocket are emerging fromBlue Origin, the Seattle-based company spearheaded by Jeff Bezos, founder ofAmazon.com. The first test flight of the rocket in unpiloted mode is slated forlate next year.

On the group's web site, they have posted an update on theirreusable launch vehicle (RLV) work. The exposure is tied to steps needed insecuring 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 SpaceTransportation. She said that a representative from her office will beparticipating in Blue Origin activities this week.

"Blue Origin is having public scoping meetings this week in Texas to tell peoplewhat they are doing and hear and assess any public concerns about the impact oflaunch activities on the environment," Smith told SPACE.com. "These scoping meetings are one of the activitiesrequired under the National Environmental Protection Act," she added.

Verticaltakeoff and landing

The company wants to create "an enduring human presence inspace," explains the Blue Origin Internet site. "Our initial research effortsare focused on reusable liquid propulsion systems, low cost operations, lifesupport, abort systems and human factors. We are currently working to develop acrewed, suborbital launch system that emphasizes safety and low cost ofoperations."

According to a document that's part of the Blue Origin website, rocket launchings would take place from the group's facilities underdevelopment in Culberson County, Texas. The reusable launchvehicle (RLV) would haul paying passengers on suborbital jaunts. The group'srocket would be comprised of a propulsion module and a crew capsule. Hydrogenperoxide and kerosene are to be used as propellants.

The Bezos booster would be fully reusable, flyingautonomously under control of on-board computers. There would be no groundcontrol during nominal flight conditions, the web site explains.

Lifting off vertically from a concrete pad, the craft wouldland vertically in an area near the launch pad. That flight profile is similarto the trajectory flown by the Pentagon/NASA-sponsored Delta ClipperExperimental (DC-X).

The DC-X was built under contract at McDonnell Douglas andrepeatedly flew from the White Sands MissileRange in New Mexico starting in the early 1990s.

"Blue Origin intends to perform unmanned RLV developmentaltest flights from the proposed facility beginning in the third quarter of 2006.Once the technology has been thoroughly tested, Blue Origin would beginpassenger flight service using the RLV at a maximum rate of 52 launches peryear. The RLV would carry three or more passengers per operation."

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