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Texas Spaceport Launches 1st Test Rocket

November 14, 2006

HOUSTON — A remote West Texas spaceport being built and bankrolled by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos launched a test rocket Monday for the first time.

“There was a launch, a one- or two-minute event,” Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Roland Herwig said from the agency’s office in Oklahoma City. He had no details.

The exact nature of the 6:30 a.m. launch or the type of spacecraft was not immediately known.

A Houston-based spokesman for Blue Origin, the Bezos-owned firm developing the private commercial space venture, did not immediately respond to a telephone inquiry from The Associated Press.

Blue Origin, based in the Seattle suburb of Kent, Wash., received FAA approval late this summer to begin its testing program. The secretive company has said it wants to use spacecraft that launch and land vertically.

The company obtained a temporary flight restriction from the FAA that began Friday and expired Monday. The restriction barred other aircraft from a 5-mile radius of the spaceport and up to 10,000 feet in altitude for a five-hour period each day.

According to documents Blue Origin submitted to the FAA earlier this year, its New Shepard Resuable Launch Vehicle would be cone-shaped, about 50 feet tall and 22 feet in diameter at the base. It would consist of two stacked modules, one to provide propulsion, the other a crew capsule “capable of carrying three or more space flight participants,” according to the report to the agency.

Blue Origin said there could be as many as 10 suborbital tests this year. As many as 52 commercial flights, the goal of the project, could begin in 2010.




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