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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

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.

Rep. Lou Correa tests positive for COVID-19

Lou Correa. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.) announced on Saturday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Correa is the latest Democratic lawmaker to share his positive test results after last week's deadly Capitol riot. Correa did not shelter in the designated safe zone with his congressional colleagues during the siege, per a spokesperson, instead staying outside to help Capitol Police.