Jeff Bezos Planning Human Test Flights, Close On SpaceX’s Heels

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and now of private commercial spaceflight company Blue Origin, said they expect to launch their first test flights with people onboard next year. He made the comments on Tuesday while giving a tour of Blue Origin’s research facility just outside of Seattle.

Jeff Bezos funds his own spaceflight company

The Amazon founder has raked in billions of dollars from his online venture, and CBS News reports that he’s shelling out some of that to pay for high-tech equipment and workers for Blue Origin. The commercial spaceflight company set up shop in a facility previously used by Boeing to make airplane parts. Currently Jeff Bezos’ childhood vision has approximately 600 employees, so it must be running at a pretty big loss right now. Of course he thinks it will be profitable “eventually,” said CBS News, although use of that particular word implies that it could be quite some time before that happens.

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Bezos also said on Tuesday that thousands of people have said they’re interested in paying for a flight to space at some point, but since Blue Origin hasn’t begun taking deposits yet, it’s unclear just how serious people are about that.

Jeff Bezos like Elon Musk?

Bezos’ efforts with Blue Origin may remind some of Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk’s efforts with his own commercial spaceflight company SpaceX. In some ways, he’s further along than Bezos is. They’re still trying to perfect their landings to reuse rockets and rocket parts, but they do have some customers. Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket finally got off the ground with the SES-9 commercial communications satellite this week after multiple launches being scrubbed.

SpaceX has launched rockets several times, to Blue Origin’s two ship launches. Jeff Bezos’ company is still testing its technology as well, focusing on the current type of ship before moving on to other ships that are being built for the purpose of testing human flight. NASA placed its first firm order with SpaceX for a human crew to be carried into space late last year, and the company’s first crewed mission is slated for March 2017.

Musk has been highly focused on cutting the cost of space launches, and this is yet another area Bezos feels is important as he wants to make it possible to reuse spaceships.

Blue Origin faces off with SpaceX

Importantly, the United Launch Alliance has asked Jeff Bezos’ company to build the engines for its new launch vehicles with the goal of stopping its reliance on engines made by Russia. SpaceX has made its designs on government contracts clear but has been facing resistance in this area.

And then there’s Virgin Galactic, the commercial spaceflight company founded by billionaire Richard Branson, and several others that are also in the testing phase with their technologies. But Jeff Bezos sounds confident, as he says he’s not worried about competition because he sees plenty of room for others as well.