Blue Origin is gearing up to launch their first crewed New Shepard rocket in July and we now have the first two confirmed passengers, which some of you probably saw coming.
Jeff Bezos announced today that he will be flying on the first crewed flight for his company alongside his brother Mark. While this flight won’t be anything close to an orbital launch in SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, the New Shepard will offer a similar view for a few minutes before returning to Earth.
The first crewed flight was announced on May 5th, the anniversary of Alan Shepard’s flight and the same day SpaceX’s landed their first Starship. The announcement gave the public the opportunity to bid on the first seat of New Shepard, if you have a couple million dollars to throw around. Currently, the process is in the second round of bidding which requires those that wish to continue on to the live auction later this month to match the highest bid. This highest bid is currently sitting at $2.8 million and has been for the last few weeks.
The wish for these rocket company owners to fly on their creations is not unique to Bezos. Both of his competitors, SpaceX’s Elon Musk and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, have plans to ride their rockets into space eventually too. Branson’s goal is similar to Bezos’, flying on the first operational flight of their SpaceShipTwo vehicle and Musk eventually wanting to visit Mars on Starship.
How will New Shepard fly?
New Shepard is a suborbital rocket, which means the vehicle doesn’t have the power to put the crew capsule into a stable Earth orbit like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 or ULA’s Atlas V. On launch day Bezos and the rest of the crew will enter the capsule on top of the New Shepard booster a few stories high and then be launched to about 100 km, which is the internationally recognized start of space. The capsule then falls back to Earth giving the crew a few minutes of weightlessness before touching back down under the power of 3 parachutes.
This method is straightforward and seems like an economical way to build a great space tourism industry, but tickets are rumored to be several hundred thousand dollars. This puts the chance to fly to space out of reach to the majority of people until the market can hopefully bring the price down.
The first New Shepard flight is scheduled to take place July 20th, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. They will launch from their New Shepard launch facility in Van Horne, Texas.
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