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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

5 hours ago - World

Over 170 Palestinians injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem

An injured man is carried away as Israeli security forces clash with Palestinian protesters at the al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

At least 178 Palestinians have been injured in clashes with Israeli police in Jerusalem, Reuters reported late Friday.

The big picture: The clashes come amid growing anger over the threatened eviction of Palestinians from their homes on land claimed by Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem. Tensions have also escalated in the occupied West Bank in recent weeks.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases hit a seven-month low — Majority back vaccine proof requirements for travel, schools and work — The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant.
  2. Politics: Oklahoma secures $2.6 million refund for hydroxychloroquine purchase — Why Biden's latest vaccine goal is his hardest yet.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA approval of COVID-19 vaccine — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations — Americans' return to the skies could benefit smaller airlines.
  5. World: WHO authorizes China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use — Mixed response in Europe to Biden's vaccine patents bombshell.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Ohio GOP censures Rep. Anthony Gonzalez over Trump impeachment vote

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Ohio Republican Party on Friday censured Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) and called for him to resign for voting to impeach former President Trump in January, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Gonzalez is the latest Republican lawmaker to be punished for voting to impeach the former president on a charge of inciting the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.