Blue Origin is working to develop reusable rockets and spacecraft to launch astronauts to suborbital and orbital space. The secretive company has received money under NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program, which is encouraging the progress of American astronaut taxis in the wake of the space shuttle's retirement. Blue Origin officials have said the firm's Space Vehicle could start delivering people to the International Space Station between 2016 and 2018.
Then, in 2002, PayPal co-founder Elon Musk set up Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX. Last year, SpaceX got $75 million in CCDev funding to upgrade its robotic Dragon capsule to a crew-carrying craft.
The company also holds a $1.6 billion NASA contract to make 12 unmanned cargo missions to the space station. It's slated to blast off on a demonstration flight to the orbiting lab on May 7, and the contracted supply runs could begin later this year if all goes well, SpaceX officials have said.