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.

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Unrest in Philadelphia after fatal police shooting of Black man

Demonstrators rally on Tuesday near the location where Walter Wallace was killed by two police officers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Pennsylvania National Guard was mobilized Tuesday during a tense second night of protests in Philadelphia over the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man.

Driving the news: Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (D) and Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said in a joint statement Monday that police were launching a "full investigation" to answer questions that arose from video that captured part of the incident with police.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage" Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse.
  2. Health: Hospitals face a crush — 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Winter threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota cases traced to three Trump campaign events.
  6. World: Putin mandates face masks.
3 hours ago - Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers win World Series

Mookie Betts slides home safely to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers won their seventh World Series in franchise history with a 3-1 Game 6 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday. Shortstop Corey Seager was named the series MVP.

The big picture: It's the Dodgers' first championship since 1988, though they've won the NL West division in eight straight seasons and reached the World Series three times in the last four years.