Bezos unleashes space rocket prototype

Amazon.com founder's space company officially tested prototype of suborbital craft and now seeks aerospace experts to join team, Web site reveals. Photos: Bezos inches closer to space

After years of secrecy surrounding his space exploration venture, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is pumping up his aspirations with a first-generation suborbital space rocket and an open plea to hire aerospace engineers.

This week, Bezos updated Blue Origin's Web site, which previously held scant information on the company. Now it hosts an open letter asking for "hard-working, technically gifted" aerospace engineers or leaders to contact the Seattle-based company for a job.

Though not revealing all his company's plans, Bezos said Blue Origin officially tested on November 13 a prototype of its rocket, the New Shepard--named for Alan Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut in space. The rocket prototype, called Goddard, is a vertical takeoff and landing vehicle designed to take three astronauts on suborbital trips into space, Bezos said. The rocket is technically similar to a DC-X, or a Delta Clipper orbital launch vehicle developed by NASA, among others.

"We're working, patiently and step-by-step, to lower the cost of spaceflight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system," Bezos wrote on the Web site.

Recognizing how hard that task is, Bezos said Blue Origin is making small, sustainable investments toward its goal, and the company needs fresh talent. Blue Origin is competing for aerospace experts against rivals like Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which aims to launch its suborbital tourist flights later this year.

Blue Origin has about 15 job openings listed on its site, including positions for a ground support systems engineer, propulsion development engineer, turbomachinery engineer, engineering analysis software developer, flight mechanics engineer and machinist.

Bezos, who founded Blue Origin in 2000, has said the company's hiring bar is "unabashedly extreme." The company's existing small team of engineers works in a newly renovated 280,000 square foot facility on 26 acres in Kent, Wash., a suburb of Seattle. The company also owns a testing complex on a ranch in remote western Texas.

According to previous reports , Bezos has already assembled a team of veteran rocket scientists who have worked on various aerospace and missile defense projects. For a long period, the company has maintained a bare-bones Web site simply containing a mission statement to "help enable an enduring human presence in space."

 

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