In Brief
  • Last week's landing marked the fifth successful one for Blue Origin's New Shepard booster after a suborbital flight.
  • As a result, the company announced they're on track for flying test astronauts by the end of 2017, and commercial flights by 2018.

It might seem as though Elon Musk and SpaceX have the market cornered on commercial space travel, but other companies are steadily coming out of the woodwork, ready to give Musk a run for his (insane amounts of) money.

Treading lightly is Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, fresh from a crash two years ago. Now, Virgin has revealed its newest rocket, SpaceShipTwo, and has been conducting more tests for its systems.

Perhaps even more ambitious, however, are the plans of Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin. After a successful “in-flight escape test,” Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson has revealed that the company plans to fly test astronauts by next year, in anticipation of full-fledged space tourists by 2018.

“We’re still on track for flying people — our test astronauts — by the end of 2017, and then starting commercial flights in 2018,” said Meyerson.

The New Shepard vehicle consists of a rocket and a capsule. During the test, the capsule used its escape motor to separate from the booster. Everything worked well, Meyerson said, describing it as a “picture-perfect test.” The capsule came back to Earth softly under parachutes, as expected.

As a bonus (and a complete surprise) the rocket was able to land its booster, showing that it’s not just SpaceX who’s working on reusable rockets. Now, we wait to find out how much a ticket to space will run us.