Blue Origin, the rocket company of billionaire Jeff Bezos, said on Wednesday it was targeting July 20 for its first suborbital sightseeing trip on its New Shepard spacecraft, a historic moment in a competition to usher in a new era of space travel. private business.
Blue Origin also said it will offer a seat on the first flight to the winning bidder of an online auction, the proceeds of which will be donated to the space company’s foundation.
“This seat will change your view of the world,” the company said in a statement ahead of a press conference.
Blue Origin did not immediately release the much-anticipated details of its long-term ticket pricing strategy, which has been a well-kept secret within the company for years.
Reuters reported in 2018 that Blue Origin plans to charge passengers at least $ 200,000 for the ride, based on an assessment of rival plans by billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc (SPCE.N) and other considerations, although his thinking may have changed.
Blue Origin announced last week that it would start selling tickets soon, after years of testing and development work that included delays.
The New Shepard rocket-capsule combo is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 100 km above Earth in suborbital space, high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet. before the pressurized capsule. returns to earth under parachutes.
The capsule has six viewing windows, according to Blue Origin, nearly three times taller than those of a Boeing 747 airliner.
While celebrities and the ultra-rich seem to be the primary market for space travel getaways, at least initially, industry sources expect Blue Origin to include a philanthropic component in its ticketing strategy.
A college science professor and an aerospace data analyst are part of a four-member crew for an orbit launch slated for later this year by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, as part of a charity campaign billed as the first fully civilian space flight in history.
Virgin Galactic also aims to carry private customers in early 2022, after a first flight with Branson on board later this year.
Its weightless experience is anchored in its SpaceShipTwo aircraft, and the company has ambitious plans to offer point-to-point travel between distant cities at elevations close to space.
Virgin says it will charge more than $ 250,000 for new bookings, but has not announced the final price. Sales will reopen after Branson’s flight.
In 2018, a Blue Origin employee with firsthand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company would start selling tickets between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000. A second employee said the tickets would cost at least $ 200,000.
Blue Origin’s announcement provides Bezos, who founded Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), with badly needed momentum after losing to SpaceX on a $ 2.9 billion contract under the high-level program. NASA level to bring Americans back to the moon for years to come.
However, NASA has asked SpaceX to stop development work specifically related to the lunar program contract pending the outcome of protests from Blue Origin and rival Dynetics to the US Government Accountability Office.
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