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Billionaire Jeff Bezos unveiled his prototype of a private reusable spacecraft by posting photos and videos on the company's Web site. They depict a secret test launch on Nov. 13, 2006, east of El Paso, Texas.
Bezos has been working on the project, called Blue Origin, since 2000, during which time he has kept silent about his operation in the remote section of West Texas.
"We're working, patiently and step by step, to lower the cost of space flight so that many people can afford to go and so that we humans can better continue exploring the solar system," Bezos said on the Web page of his space venture, "Accomplishing this mission will take a long time, and we're working on it methodically."
The project's goal is to design a new type of spacecraft called the New Shepard intended to blast three passengers and one crew member almost 100 km into the air, giving them spectacular views and the right to brag that they have visited outer space.
The craft is designed to take off and land vertically, using downward-facing thrusters both to blast the one-piece vehicle into the air and to slow its descent as it returns to Earth.
According to the planning application to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the aim is to run commercial trips by 2010.