Blue Origin Quietly Moves Spaceward

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Richard Branson's new spaceport in New Mexico could have competition from a similar site in Texas, according to an Associated Press report. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, had bought 165,000 acres near El Paso that will be used as a test site and an eventual spaceport. The AP said Bezos has also bought 25 acres south of Seattle that will be used as a site to design and build spacecraft and engines. The site includes a 243,000-square-foot office and warehouse building that is being revamped to accommodate research and assembly areas, plus a 90,000-square-foot rocket-engine test stand surrounded by a 12-foot earthen berm. Staff from Bezos' space company, Blue Origin, will move to the site early in 2006, the AP said. The company work force is now about 40, but is expected to grow to 100 over the next few years. The company is designing a spacecraft that will take off and land vertically and carry three passengers into suborbital space. Test flights in Texas could begin late in 2006. The AP cited various sources and records, adding that Blue Origin has released little information about its plans.