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Blue Origin has launched its New Shepard rocket Sunday from its facility near Van Horn, Texas in the company's first flight of 2018. The vehicle — named after the first American in space, Alan Shepard — launches vertically from the West Texas facility.
Founder Jeff Bezos, who invests $1 billion each year into Blue Origin from the proceeds of selling his Amazon stock, announced the test flight on Friday in a tweet. Blue Origin has approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to attempt a launch during a four-day window – from Sunday to Wednesday, between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET each day.
This will be the eighth flight for New Shepard. In December, its seventh New Shepard mission launched, landed and successfully deployed the unmanned Crew Capsule 2.0. It was the company's first launch in 14 months.
Blue Origin is steadily progressing toward sending humans to suborbital space, and in an interview that appeared on Business Insider on Saturday, Bezos described space travel as "the most important thing" he's currently working on.
CEO Bob Smith told CNBC Apr. 18 that he hopes the company will be launching tourists to space on New Shepard this year.
He cautioned that the company will only "go when we're ready. We want to make sure it's completely safe for our passengers," Smith said.