BLUE Origin, billionaire Jeff Bezos’ rocket company, is poised to open up ticket sales on Wednesday for tourists wishing to go to space.
Suborbital sightseeing trips will take place on the US firm’s New Shepard spacecraft – though no date has been set for its first commercial flight.
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Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket-and-capsule spacecraft is reusable[/caption]
Blue Origin is expected to announce details on how to purchase a seat, the timing of the first flight, and the cost for a ticket, which has been a carefully guarded secret inside Blue for years.
It promises to be a landmark moment as US firms strive toward a new era of private commercial space travel.
Sales open at 5pm BST (12pm ET) on May 5, according to Blue’s website. Both the price tag and number of available tickets remain unclear.
In 2018, Reuters reported that Blue was planning to charge passengers at least $200,000 for a ride.
Blue Origin was founded by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man[/caption]
The figure was based on an appraisal of rival plans from billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and other considerations, though Blue’s thinking may have changed.
Blue Origin teased last week that it would soon begin selling tickets, following years of testing and development work that has included delays.
Blue’s New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo is designed to autonomously fly six passengers 62 miles (100 km) above Earth into suborbital space.
That’s high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before the pressurised capsule returns to Earth under parachutes.
Blue Origin's flight path to suborbital space
A step-by-step guide to the journey…
- New Shepard is a reusable rocket with an attached crew capsule for passengers.
- New Shepard will launch vertically for about two and a half minutes before main engine cut-off.
- The capsule will then separate from the rocket; passengers will be weightless for about four minutes during the 11-minute flight.
- Those on-board will be high enough (at an altitude of 307,000 feet or 93,573 meters) to see the curvature of Earth.
- The spacecraft will coast for a few minutes in space before re-entering the atmosphere.
- New Shepard will land using an autonomous, rocket powered vertical landing system.
The capsule features six observation windows Blue Origin says are nearly three times as tall as those on a Boeing 747 jetliner.
While celebrities and the uber-rich appear to be a core market for space tourist jaunts, at least initially, industry sources expect Blue to include some philanthropic component to its ticket strategy.
A college science professor and an aerospace data analyst are among a four-member crew for a launch into orbit planned later this year by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, part of a charity drive billed as the first all-civilian spaceflight.
Virgin Galactic also aims to fly private customers in early 2022, after a first flight with Branson on board later this year.
Inside the New Shepard capsule, which will carry tourists to suborbital space[/caption]
Its zero-gravity experience is anchored by its SpaceShipTwo plane, and the company has ambitious plans to offer point-to-point travel between far-flung cities at near-space altitudes.
Virgin says it will charge more than $250,000 for new reservations but has not announced final pricing. Sales will reopen following Branson’s flight.
In 2018, one Blue Origin employee said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000.
A second employee said tickets would cost a minimum of $200,000.
Bezos will reportedly charge $200,000 for a ticket[/caption]
Blue Origin’s announcement will provide Bezos, who founded Amazon, sorely needed momentum after Blue Origin lost out to SpaceX on a $2.9billion contract.
The deal was part of Nasa’s high-profile program to return Americans to the moon in coming years.
Nasa has told SpaceX to halt development work specifically related to the moon program contract pending the outcome of protests by Blue and rival Dynetics at the US Government Accountability Office.
While tickets for Blue’s first suborbital trips will likely be reserved for minted amateur astronauts, Bezos wants to open up travel to all in future.
Tickets for Blue’s first suborbital trips will likely be reserved for minted amateur astronauts[/caption]
Bezos has previously pledged to plough plenty of his $197billion fortune into the project to make space travel accessible for all.
The majority of Bezos’ wealth comes from his stash of Amazon shares, which he plans to flog to drive down Blue’s prices.
“The price of admission to space is very high,” the billionaire declared in 2018.
“I’m in the process of converting my Amazon lottery winnings into a much lower price of admission so we can go explore the solar system.”
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