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Fri, Jan 05, 2007

Bezos Releases Details Of November's Goddard Launch

Blue Origin Working To Develop Private, Manned Spaceflight

The billionaire founder of Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos, has been very secretive about the company's progress toward its stated goal of developing craft for manned, commercial spaceflight. The company has worked behind closed and locked doors and gates for years. Now, he's released video showing the successful launch of Goddard -- what the company is calling a first development vehicle in its New Shepard program.

According to information on the company's website, New Shepard is to be a vertical take-off, vertical-landing vehicle designed to take a small number of astronauts on a sub-orbital journey into space.

Quoting from the website, Bezos said, "We’re working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system. Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we’re working on it methodically."

Goddard is a rather ungainly-looking vehicle. It's a featureless white cone, squared-off at its base, sitting on four stilt-like metal legs. The craft blasts off the launch pad in a cloud of smoke and dust and ascends to almost 300 feet (according to the website) before descending and alighting gently on the launch pad. The entire flight lasts about 25 seconds.

While not particularly earth-shattering when viewed from the eyes of one used to watching, say, a space-shuttle launch, if one stops to think this is the work of a private company, not a world superpower, it is an impressive display of technology.

As impressive as it is from that perspective, it's clear the company still has a long way to go from a 25-second, 300-foot flight, to launching a manned vehicle to sub-orbital space and returning it safely.

If it seems progress at the company is slow, remember it took NASA, with all the resources of a developed, industrialized nation behind it, years to make a successful rocket launch -- and theirs didn't touch down gently back on the launch pad in one piece!

To help it achieve its goal, the company has posted a notice on its website that it's now actively recruiting aerospace engineers with propulsion and turbomachinery experience.

Bezos is driven by a belief in taking small steps toward his goal. Even the company motto, Gradatim Ferociter (Step by Step, Fiercely), emblazoned on its logo -- complete with two turtles -- reflects Bezos' mindset.

It looks as though at least one goal has been met!



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