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Blue Origin construction site
The steel structure for Blue Origin’s factory rises from a site in Florida. (Blue Origin Photo via Jeff Bezos)

Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos is showing off the “extraordinary progress” being made on the Florida factory where Blue Origin’s New Glenn orbital launch vehicle will be built.

“As you can see here, the first steel is now going up,” he wrote today in an email update, accompanied by a picture showing a lattice of girders rising from the construction site near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The 750,000-square-foot facility is due to open by the end of 2017 and produce New Glenn rockets for Blue Origin’s orbital missions. Test flights are expected to begin by the end of the decade, lifting off from Launch Complex 36 under the terms of a lease from Space Florida.

Meanwhile, Bezos’ Blue Origin venture is also proceeding with its New Shepard suborbital space program. The first full-fledged New Shepard rocket ship was retired after making five successful test flights to the edge of outer space and back.

That vehicle is now being processed at Blue Origin’s production facility in Kent, Wash., and will eventually be donated to a museum. An upgraded New Shepard booster and capsule will make its debut for Blue Origin’s next uncrewed test launch in West Texas.

If all goes well, test astronauts will get on board New Shepard within a year, and paying passengers could start taking trips in 2018. By that time, Blue Origin’s Florida factory should look like this:

Blue Origin factory completed
An artist’s conception shows a rocket rolling out from the right side of Blue Origin’s completed rocket factory. (Blue Origin Illustration via Jeff Bezos)

Blue Origin hasn’t yet set a ticket price for its suborbital space trips, and it’s not taking reservations. But you can sign up for email updates from Bezos via Blue Origin’s website.

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