Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin Loses Out to Boeing Co., Two Others in NASA's Space Taxi Funding Race

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It was a happy weekend for NASA, with the federal space agency's successful landing of its Mars rover yesterday and its Friday agreements with three American companies - Boeing among them - to design and develop the next generation of U.S. human spaceflights. Less happy is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose commercial venture, Kent-based Blue Origin, was scratched from the funding race to build a space taxi - having lost its test vehicle at 45,000 feet during an experimental flight last year.

NASA awarded most of the latest funding to Boeing's Houston-based Space Exploration operation, granting $460 million towards the aerospace giant's development of a craft to launch astronauts from U.S. soil in the next five years.

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, Calif. - which is partnering with billionaire Paul Allen in another commercial space venture and hired ex-U.S. Senator Slade Gorton to lobby on its behalf - was awarded $440 million towards its craft development. Sierra Nevada Corporation, of Louisville, Colo., was awarded $212.5 million.

Bezos' venture ran out of the money, though it had been in competition with the other three through last year. In 2011, NASA doled out $270 million to the four companies, with $22 million going to Blue Origin.

Billionaire Bezos will now have to continue his space venture independently, its future less clear. The company rarely publicly speaks about its progress and its Update page on the firm's website hasn't been updated since last November, following announcement of the in-flight loss (explosion?) of its second test vehicle at Mach 1.2 speed and an altitude of 45,000 feet.

Blue Origin continues to offer job openings, however, for engineers and developers as it focuses in part on developing reusable launch vehicles utilizing Vertical Take-off and Vertical Landing (VTVL) technology, according to the website. Its long-term goal is to make space travel possible "at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability."

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