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New Shepard takes flight in December 2019. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin is planning to launch another test flight of its suborbital New Shepard space system as early as this month, with human test flights expected before the end of the year.

The big picture: The Jeff Bezos-backed rocket company pumped the brakes on its test flight program last year but is now gearing up to launch its next round of flights ahead of its first tests with human passengers.

"[We'll have] about three to four more flights before we go fly people. So we're still on target for this year for doing that, but there's a lot of work to be done."
— Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith to Axios

Context: Blue Origin sees its suborbital space business as key to the company.

  • By testing its human spaceflight systems with New Shepard, Blue Origin plans to translate what it learns into the development of orbital vehicles, like the New Glenn rocket currently being built.
  • The company also sees New Shepard as an important source of inspiration for the public as it works to make Bezos' dream of millions of people living and working in space a reality.

The big questions: Blue Origin has yet to announce a price for tickets, and it's not clear when New Shepard will enter commercial service.

Go deeper: Everything you need to know about Blue Origin

Go deeper

4 mins ago - Health

Florida records most new daily COVID cases since pandemic began

Nurses bring a portable x-ray machine to a treatment tent outside the emergency department at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, Florida, set up to serve as an overflow area as the number of COVID-19 infections surges throughout Brevard County. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida reported 21,683 new COVID-19 cases — the most in the state in a single day since the pandemic began, per data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday.

The big picture: Florida is now the U.S. coronavirus epicenter, with the Delta variant driving a surge, Axios Tampa Bay's Ben Montgomery notes.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

Chart: Less than 0.1% of vaccinated Americans tested positive for COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: CDC and state Covid dashboards. Dani Alberti/Axios

Of the 164 million vaccinated Americans, around 125,000 people have tested positive for breakthrough infections and 0.001% have died, according to state data compiled from state dashboards by NBC and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Why it matters: While "breakthrough cases" have been getting media attention, the low numbers show that the pandemic is mostly a threat for the unvaccinated population.

Biden officials celebrate infrastructure deal in fuel-cell big rig

White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm celebrated progress on President Biden's infrastructure package by taking a spin in a Kenworth fuel-cell, zero-emissions Class A truck.

What they're saying: "We have a deal, a Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework deal," Granholm said. McCarthy responded: "it's big and it's beautiful."