New York (CNN Business)Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, is testing its space tourism rocket again.
The rocket, which won’t have a crew on board, will take off from a test site in rural Texas on Thursday around 9:30 am ET. It will be the 11th uncrewed test of Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket, and it could be one of the last before the company starts selling tickets and sending its first customers to space. Blue Origin said earlier this year that it wants New Shepard to be open for business in 2019.
A capsule outfitted with giant windows for future tourists to gaze out of sits on top of the rocket. But it’s not ready for people just yet: Blue Origin said the rocket will carry 38 research payloads during Friday’s flight.
We are targeting the next launch of #NewShepard tomorrow May 2nd at 8:30 am CDT / 13:30 UTC. The mission will take 38 microgravity research payloads to space. Watch the launch live at https://t.co/XNq9WB3aZ2 #NS11 pic.twitter.com/wVNRYgKsjY
— Blue Origin (@blueorigin) May 1, 2019
Blue Origin wants to eventually send passengers straight up to more than 62 miles above Earth, which is the line frequently used to define the beginning of outer space. The people will experience a few minutes of weightlessness before the capsule begins its descent. But the company, which has kept much of its development progress under wraps, has not started selling tickets, nor has it announced a price point. Read MoreNew Shepard will help Blue Origin compete directly with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic in the suborbital space tourism market.Branson, the billionaire businessman, told CNN Business in December that he wants to begin flying passengers in mid-2019. About 600 people have reserved a Virgin Galactic ticket, which is priced between $200,000 and $250,000.
NASA is renting out another piece of historic property to Jeff Bezos' rocket companyVirgin Galactic — which plans to use a rocket-powered plane to fly groups of people to the edge of space — has conducted two test flights above the 50-mile mark since December. Its spaceship requires two pilots to fly. Blue Origin’s rocket, meanwhile, is fully automated. Both the Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic spacecrafts are reusable. Bezos has said he is funding Blue Origin by selling about $1 billion worth of his Amazon (AMZN) stock each year. The company is quietly working on a few other projects, including a giant rocket called New Glenn that will be able to send hefty satellites and other payloads into orbit.
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin launches 10th test flight of space tourism rocket
While Elon Musk and his rocket company, SpaceX, have drawn massive media attention over the past decade, Blue Origin has stayed largely under the radar. But that could change soon. Bezos will host a Blue Origin press event in Washington D.C. on May 9. The company has been light on details about that event, but said it will include “an update on our progress and share our vision of going to space to benefit Earth.”