Blue Origin

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Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com fame, although no one really noticed their existence until Bezos started buying land in Texas for a launch site a few years later, and the official announcement to the public didn't come until 2007. While the Kent, Washington-based company probably won't be providing one-click access to space anytime soon, they do have a suborbital spacecraft called the New Shepard under development; a prototype was tested on November 13, 2006.

According to the one section of the Blue Origin website not focused on recruiting, the New Shepard will be used to fly experiment packages under a Research Flight Demonstration Program. Other goals include "providing the public with opportunities to experience spaceflight," i.e. space tourism. And according to Larry Simpson, a resident of the Texas town near the Blue Origin launch site who talked with Bezos in 2005 about his plans for the company: "ultimately, his thing is space colonization." Big ambitions, but you have to admit this is the guy who started a company in his garage that became America's biggest online retailer. And looking at the photos of the company HQ on the Blue Origin main page, it's obvious he's starting from a lot more than a garage this time.

If you're a NewSpace purist, you might want to take note that Blue Origin has accepted $3.7 million from NASA, though the funds are earmarked for just two aspects of their spacecraft development, the emergency escape system and the material for the walls of a pressurized compartment.

Speaking of NASA, Blue Origin General Counsel Robert Millman represented the company at a February 2010 press conference where NASA administrator Charles Bolden singled out the company as one of seven leaders in the new space industry. Other notable Blue Origin employees have included Neal Stephenson, best known as the author of science fiction novels such as Snow Crash and Anathem, who worked there for awhile as an advisor.

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