Details of the closely held Blue Origin flight test program were revealed recently in a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration filing, according to this story.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos founded the privately funded aerospace program in 2000 -- with grand visions of providing space tourism and, over time, enabling an "enduring human presence in space."
The New Shephard, a re-launchable launch vehicle, is being targeted to commence commercial operations in 2010, with projected demand at 52 launches per year.
Bezos' vision has been long in the making. He first laid out plans for the colonization of space during his high school valedictory speech at Miami Palmetto Senior High School.
In March 2003, he was riding in helicopter when it crashed on a Southwest Texas mountain range. He and the other two passengers avoided serious injury. (The launch site is located near Van Horn, Texas.)
Now, about the name...
We asked Google to define "Shephard," and the only entry to come up was that of Lucius Shepard (no "h"), an award-winning science ficition writer who hails from Vancouver, Wash.