Blue Origin's New Shepard Rocket Launches a New Line of Business  <font color="#6f6f6f">The New York Times</font>

West Texas is not quite like the moon. But it can serve as a handy stand-in.

On Tuesday, Blue Origin, the rocket company started by Jeffrey P. Bezos, the chief executive of Amazon, launched — and landed — its small New Shepard rocket and capsule for the 13th time as part of tests to verify safety before any passengers climb aboard.

One day, this will be New Shepard’s main business: flying well-to-do people above the 62-mile altitude generally considered the beginning of outer space where they will experience a few minutes of weightlessness as the capsule arcs.

Blue Origin is not a new company — Mr. Bezos founded it in 2000 — but for most of its existence, it operated in secret without generating much revenue. Three years ago, Mr. Bezos said he was selling a billion dollars a year in Amazon stock to finance Blue Origin’s research and development. And he has declared broad ambitions for its business, such as competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and others in the orbital launch business, building a moon lander for NASA astronauts and eventually making it possible for millions of people to live and work in space.

But the cargo of Tuesday’s launch from a test site near Van Horn, Texas, shows that the company is finding a more modest business in the short term: turning the reusable New Shepard rocket and capsule into an effective, and profitable, platform for testing new technologies and performing scientific experiments.

more than 100 payloads to the edge of space.

payloads that we use with students that go as low as $8,000.”

Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which also plans to send space tourists on suborbital jaunts, has been flying experiments during its test flights. One from University of Florida scientists, for example, tested imaging technologies that capture the reaction of plants — what genes are turned on and off — to the stresses of spaceflight. (The same scientists had another iteration of the experiment aboard Tuesday’s Blue Origin flight.)

Virgin Galactic’s space plane is flown by two pilots, so it has carried people to space, but it will not fly paying passengers until next year.

“The whole view of using these vehicles for research purposes has moved into the mainstream, and NASA has now been funding a lot of that kind of work.” said S. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the space science and engineering division at Southwest Research Institute.