Bazillionaires In Space -- An Update

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Blue Origin, the space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has released some details about its future plans, as it works with the FAA to gain approvals to develop its site in Culberson County, Texas. The company's reusable launch vehicle (RLV) would carry three or more passengers to 325,000 feet, propelled by hydrogen peroxide and kerosene. The RLV would be operated by an onboard computer system, with no ground control, and it would launch vertically from a concrete pad and land vertically in an area nearby. Blue Origin intends to perform unmanned RLV test flights from the proposed facility beginning, at the earliest, in the third quarter of 2006. Bezos is just one of many high-tech billionaires investing in the "new space race," the effort to create a space-tourism industry independent of NASA, which has become something of a status symbol for the rich-and-geeky set. "It's not good enough to have a Gulfstream V," Rick Tumlinson, of the Space Frontier Foundation, told The New York Times. "Now you've got to have a rocket."