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Commercial space race hots up

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is well and truly in the commercial space race, with details of his planned vertical take-off and landing rocket launcher emerging from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA).

The company he funds, Blue Origin, filed an environmental assessment report with the FAA, detailing plans for a private launch facility near its own HQ in Texas.

The filing explains that Blue Origin is planning to "launch reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) on suborbital, ballistic trajectories to altitudes in excess of 99,060 meters (325,000 feet)" from "private launch site, which would include a vehicle processing facility, launch complex, vehicle landing and recovery area, space flight participant training facility, and other minor support facilities".

The details of the project have been, until now, something of a closely guarded secret. But the draft environmental report, which you can read here, (it's a pdf) suggests that Blue Origin has plans for up to five test launches this year, with a further 25 to take place per year over the next five years.

The company is most likely to build the launch site on a 165,000 acre Corn Ranch in Culberson County, owned by Jeff Bezos.

The local wildlife would certainly notice Blue Origin's arrival. The report warns that "small numbers of less-mobile, burrow-dwelling animals (gophers, chipmunks) inhabiting the construction area could be displaced by construction activity or killed if burrows are filled, crushed, or paved".

The report says that although no state listed animals are known to live in the area, it is "possible" that some protected lizards and/or birds could be disturbed by the project.

A public consultation on the proposal is due to conclude this week, The Independent reports, with a meeting in the nearby small town of Van Horn.

On a related note, Blue Origin is currently on the lookout for all kinds of space-related engineers, provided they are excited by the idea of actually building stuff. PowerPoint enthusiasts, it says, need not apply. ®

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