The battle of the billionaires between Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson looks set to finally blast its first passengers into space next year.
Speaking at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference in Colorado, Jeff Ashby, a former NASA astronaut who is director of safety and mission assurance for Jeff Bezos' space firm Blue Origin, said the firm is now 'a year out' from human flights.
It comes as Richard Branson claimed in October he will travel to space on his Virgin Galactic craft within six months.
Elon Musk is also expected to soon reveal the launch schedule for a manned version of his Dragon capsule that will ferry astronauts to the International Space station under a NASA contract next year.
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The billionaire space race: Jeff Bezos (left) space firm Blue Origin, is now 'a year out' from human flights, while Richard Branson (center) says he hopes to fly aboard Virgin galactic 'within six months'. Elon Musk's SpaceX (right)hopes to send its first astronauts to the International Space Station under a lucrative NASA contract next year.
Blue Origin's test site in West Texas saw the most recent launch last week, when 'Version 2.0' of its crew capsule, outfitted with the large windows that are a distinctive feature of the spacecraft, took off.
The capsule carried 12 experiments as well as a test dummy, dubbed 'Mannequin Skywalker,' to measure the environment a human would experience on those flights.
The test flight was the first performed under a launch license awarded by the Federal Aviation Administration in August.