Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket lifting off. Photo: Blue Origin

Blue Origin is just a few test flights away from flying people to suborbital space by the end of the year, CEO Bob Smith told Axios.

Why it matters: If the Jeff Bezos-founded company does manage to fly humans to the edge of space aboard its New Shepard system before the end of the year, it makes the company a major player in the suborbital game.

Blue Origin is focused on making access to space cheaper and easier. The New Shepard, which targets tourism, is one element of that.

Details: Blue Origin’s last New Shepard test occurred on May 2, marking the 11th successful flight of the system and 5th flight for that particular rocket and booster.

  • “We’re still focused on getting the vehicle ready to go fly humans on it, and we’re still pushing to get that done by the end of the year,” Smith said.
  • “That calendar year is coming up closer and closer, so we’ve got to get [a few] more flights in this year before we put people on it.”
  • Smith also said the company has yet to set a price per seat for a ride on the rocket.

The big picture: Instead of just focusing on one element of the space business, Blue Origin has a variety of different projects in the works, including its Blue Moon lander — designed to bring cargo and one day people to the lunar surface — and large New Glenn rocket.

  • Bezos reportedly sells off about $1 billion in Amazon stock each year to fund Blue Origin, and the company is now fighting hard to break into the lucrative national security launch business.
  • Blue Origin isn’t the only suborbital game in town, with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic also planning to fly its first customers in the coming year or two.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Bob Smith said the company would fly a few test flights before the end of the year rather than two flights.

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