Amazon's Jeff Bezos has opened up about his ambitious plans to blast people into space on commercial flights above earth within the next two years.
Blue Origin, the Amazon founder's commercial space flight company which is a rival to the likes of Elon Musk's Space X and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, will conduct its first test flights with people on board as early as 2017 and will accept paying customers by 2018.
Bezos opened up about details of the space company's plans at the first ever media tour of the Blue Origin factory in Seattle.
"We’ll probably fly test pilots in 2017, and if we’re successful then I’d imagine putting paying astronauts on in 2018,” he told reporters.
Bezos said he is investing more than $500m in the project and will double staff to 1,200 within the next year as it goes about building six New Shepard reusable rockets which will be carry six passengers more than 100km above earth.
Un-maned test flights of New Shepard have already taken place, taking off into space and then returning to land on earth (watch below).
He told reporters he would continue to fund Blue Origin for as long as necessary and is "optimistic it will be a healthy business".
The company is also working with aerospace giants, providing rocket engines for Lockheed Martin and Boeing on its United Launch alliance space collaboration.