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Space shots give a big boost to tiny Texas town

VAN HORN, Texas — When I last visited this West Texas town in 2006, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture was planning to provide suborbital space trips for paying passengers by 2010.

The bad news for Van Horn is that it’s taken a decade longer than expected for Blue Origin’s space boom to come to town. But the good news is that the economic impact is arguably 10 times as great.

Blue Origin’s 15-year-old environmental assessment, which was the subject of the Federal Aviation Administration hearing I attended in 2006, estimated that 20 to 35 full-time employees would be working at the company’s suborbital launch site a half-hour drive north of Van Horn.

Fifteen years later, the actual figure is 275 employees — due not only to Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital spaceship, which Bezos and three crewmates are scheduled to ride on Tuesday, but also due to the rocket engine testing program that’s based at Launch Site One.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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