Blue Origin, the Seattle-based space venture backed by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, has been quietly working for the past 13 years on development and testing of its New Shepard rocket.
On Friday, Bezos said that the company is now up to 300 employees and is inching closer to commercial operation. The 49-year-old Amazon founder was speaking at the grand opening of the Bezos Center of Innovation at The Museum of History & Industry in Seattle.
“The project is going extremely well,” Bezos said of Blue Origin. “It’s a killer team of passionate, highly-technical people working on this.”
Blue Origin is now working on its third version of the New Shepard, which is designed to take everyday people on suborbital journeys. Bezos said that he’s hopeful that this will be the last iteration, and he wants to see the next vehicle ready for commercial operation.
“I’m very optimistic about that,” he said.
Bezos didn’t give any specific timetables. However, he did say that Blue Origin’s orbital vehicle, designed to send astronauts to the International Space Station and elsewhere, will be tested by 2018.
Eventually, the goal is to let anyone fly up into space safely at reasonable prices.
“That’s the mission,” Bezos said.
Blue Origin, which has yet to send anything up into space, is currently embroiled in a battle with Elon Musk’s SpaceX over a vacant NASA shuttle launch pad. Musk recently said that “unicorns will dance” before Bezos makes it to space.