Amazon co-founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos is already selling tickets to prospective space tourists.
Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, is already opening up “early access” to ticket information for potential space tourists after a successful test of its New Shepard rocket’s escape pod earlier this week. Blue Origin will send the tourists to space on the old rocket as well as its recently unveiled New Glenn reuseable rocket, a huge orbital vehicle that the company aims to start flying in 2019.
“We’re going to make sure that our astronauts that fly on New Shepard are going to get first access to tickets on New Glenn,” Ariane Cornell, a member of Blue Origin’s business development branch, said.
She clarified that tourists on New Shepard would experience about 4 minutes of weightlessness during the 11-minute flight and see the curvature of the Earth against the blackness of space.
Bezos says Blue Origin could crew test flights of the New Shepard rocket next year, and start commercial operations sometime in 2018. Blue Origin hasn’t said how much a tourist ticket to space would cost, but a ticket on the planned Chinese tourist space shuttle or the American Virgin Galactic space plane would probably cost around $200,000 to $250,000.
Blue Origin has been competing with other companies, like SpaceX, to develop the first fully reusable rocket. SpaceX, owned by billionaire Elon Musk, failed on two separate occasions to successfully land a reusable rocket before finally succeeding in April. Blue Origin successfully launched and landed the world’s first private reusable rocket in November and reused the rocket four more times.
Reusable rockets are considered a major advance by the rocket and space industry as spaceflight cost lies not in the fuel, but rather the rocket components.
Blue Origin is currently developing a two-stage New Glenn rocket will be 270 feet tall and 23 feet in diameter and capable of generating 3.85 million pounds of thrust. This is much larger than NASA’s planned 212-foot-tall Space Launch System rocket, which will only by capable of generating 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
New Glenn’s engines will burn liquefied natural gas and oxygen. Blue Origin’s very first orbital rocket will have slightly more than half the thrust of the Saturn V rockets that carried humans to the moon.
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