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Blue Origin spruces up rocket report

Blue Origin

Blue Origin's prototype rocket ship rises from its pad for a "short hop" flight test in May. Click on the image for the videos from Blue Origin's website.

Blue Origin, the secretive rocket venture founded by Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos, has unveiled a spruced-up website that includes videos of its successful "short hop" flight test back in May.

However, there's no new information about the crash of its PM-2 prototype in August, which came at the end of an ambitious supersonic tryout. Bezos acknowledged the crash a week after it happened in an online update, and said his team was already working on a new prototype. In Thursday's update, he made no mention of August's setback or the state of the development effort.

"We’ve received requests for video of the short hop test flight that took place earlier this year. Here are two videos of the flight," Bezos wrote. "Enjoy!"

Blue Origin

A diagram shows the configuration for a prototype New Shepard suborbital space vehicle.

The two videos show the PM-2 rising from the launch pad at Bezos' spaceport in West Texas, then easing back down to earth with engines blazing and dust flying. One video provides a fisheye view from near the launch pad, and the other video was taken with a handheld camera from a remote location.

Thursday's update is part of a redesigned website that lays out Blue Origin's spaceflight plans and highlights the venture's employment opportunities (including 14 "immediate openings" and a summer internship program).

Blue Origin

This diagram shows the design for Blue Origin's booster system, with an orbital space capsule sitting on top of the stack at left.

Blue Origin intends to field a suborbital space vehicle known as New Shepard, which could take on tourists as well as researchers and their experiments. It's also working on an orbital space capsule capable of taking astronauts to the International Space Station. For orbital missions, Blue Origin has said it intends to use expendable Atlas 5 rockets at first but will eventually switch to its own reusable first-stage booster and upper stage.

The upgraded website provides more details about the suborbital as well as the orbital effort, including diagrams of the space vehicles and the "Cabin Payload Bays" that will hold experiments.

"The technical challenges of escaping Earth’s gravity well and reaching orbit have never been trivial, and are compounded when higher reliability and lower cost are required," Blue Origin says. "We are working patiently, step by step, to reach these long-term goals."

Over the past couple of years, NASA has set aside $25.7 million to support work on Blue Origin's orbital vehicle. Three other companies — the Boeing Co., Sierra Nevada Corp. and SpaceX — are currently receiving higher levels of support for similar spaceship development efforts. All four companies say they can have their orbital spaceships ready for NASA's use by around the middle of the decade, assuming that they continue to receive development funding from the space agency.

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