Blue Origin has been chosen as NASA's latest space-age guinea pig.
Jeff Bezos's private aerospace company was awarded a contract to perform suborbital research flights as part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which tests how emerging technologies perform to see if they might be useful on current and future missions.
As SpaceNews reports, the deal means Blue Origin can team up with researchers and submit flight proposals to NASA, which decides whether or not to fund them. They'll go up against other space firms that have NASA contracts: Virgin Galactic, World View Enterprises, Masten Space Systems, Near Space Corporation, and UP Aerospace.
"We are pleased to have Blue Origin join our cadre of Flight Opportunities services providers," Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA's STMD, said in a statement. "Adding additional flight providers enables NASA and the broader aerospace community to demonstrate and transition space technologies, developing new capabilities faster and, potentially, at lower cost."
To date, the Flight Opportunities Program has supported 46 flights of 172 different payloads, SpaceNews said, citing Jurczyk.
Bezos and Blue Origin made history in November, becoming the first to launch a rocket and successfully land it vertically back on Earth. Rockets are not typically salvageable, and crash into the ocean after a mission. So companies like Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX have been working on rockets that can be reused, saving man hours and money for future flights.
As Popular Mechanics explains, though, the milestones accomplished by Blue Origin and SpaceX are a bit different.
Blue Origin did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.