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The competition heats up: Blue Origin expects to increase the rate of test flights for its New Shepard reusable rocket in 2016.
“We expect to shorten that turnaround time over time this year, and fly this vehicle again and again,” [Blue Origin President Rob Meyerson] said. Those upcoming tests will use the same New Shepard vehicle that flew the previous two flights, with hardware and software modifications as needed between flights. Meyerson said the company still plans to perform “dozens” of test flights of New Shepard over the next couple of years before the company is ready to carry people on the vehicle. “It really depends on how the flight test program goes,” he said. “It could be a little faster than that, or it could be a little longer than that, depending on what we learn.”
I expect that by the end of 2016, the U.S. will have two proven reusable first stage rockets and two operational orbital cargo spacecraft. And that doesn’t count the likely first demo flight of Falcon Heavy.