Blue Origin, the space company set up by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, will conduct its first suborbital test flights this year after completing work on a rocket engine, company officials have said.
The Blue Origin spaceship, dubbed New Shepard, is designed to take three passengers approximately 62 miles (100km) above Earth. The ship will also carry equipment for scientific experiments into space.
Blue Origin president Rob Meyerson said testing and development of the BE-3 rocket engine that will power the spaceship is now finished, paving the way for the test flights to go ahead.
"The engine is ready for flight ... and ready for other commercial users," Meyerson said.
New Shepard test flights will be launched from Blue Origin’s facility outside Van Horn, Texas.
The Washington-headquartered company is aiming to make space travel more accessible and cheaper to members of the public but ticket prices are yet to be disclosed.
“We’ve adopted an incremental approach, with each development step building on the prior development,” the company says on its website. “We are currently focused on developing rocket-powered Vertical Takeoff and Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicles for access to suborbital and orbital space.”
Blue Origin joins a number of companies that are aiming to move into the commercial flight market.
Indeed, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has the SpaceShipTwo a six-passenger, two-pilot spaceplane that is expected to resume test flights later this year following a fatal accident in Mojave, California, on October 31, 2014.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk’s Space X is looking to skip suborbital flights and develop systems that can carry people into orbit.