Bezos explained how the space company is learning from test flights of rocket New Shepard, which he expects will begin flying passengers on short trips into space this year. According to industry publication Space News, Bezos said at the event that the lessons from New Shepard are informing Blue Origin's development of its New Glenn rocket — a behemoth the size of a 29-story skyscraper.
"The strategic objective of New Shepard is to practice," Bezos reportedly said. "A lot of the subcomponents of New Shepard actually get directly reused on the second stage of New Glenn."
The two rockets are at very different stages of development. New Shepard has launched 10 times, going past an altitude of 350,000 feet and coming back to land on its most recent test flight from the company's facility in West Texas. The rocket's capsule spends about 10 minutes floating in zero gravity, before following the rocket's booster back down to land, to be launched again. New Shepard would fly space tourists, as the capsule features massive windows that provide expansive views of the Earth once in space.
New Glenn, on the other hand, is a massive rocket designed to launch large spacecraft, such as heavy telecommunications and internet satellites. Once operational, New Glenn would compete with SpaceX's Falcon Heavy for missions, as well as national security contracts. Blue Origin has yet to fly New Glenn, with the first launch expected in 2021. But Bezos said his company is learning a lot from the smaller rocket's test flights.
"All of those systems will get a tremendous amount of practice with that suborbital mission and will be carried over directly to the upper stage [of New Glenn]," Bezos said. "The lessons learned on things like landings and operability and reusability, all those things from the New Shepard program, those also get incorporated into the New Glenn booster."