Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin tests space tourism rocket
Blue Origin, a privately held company owned by Amazon founder billionaire Jeff Bezos, has launched yet another test flight of its tourist rocket, steadily getting closer to sending paying tourists into space..
On Wednesday, the rocket took off from a test site in rural Texas and rose more than 60 miles into the upper atmosphere across what is thought to be the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space..
This is the 12th test flight to undock the fully autonomous system of the rocket and the Blue Origin spacecraft called New Shepard. And it could be one of the last tests before the company is ready to send customers into space, although it is unclear exactly when the company will reach this milestone..
Earlier this year, Arian Cornell, Blue Origin’s director of sales, said the company plans to begin passenger flights in 2019. But these plans have changed. During Wednesday’s launch webcast, she only said that the company «close to this».
CEO Bob Smith told CNBC in a recent interview that tourist flights «probably» start next year.
The New Shepard capsule, which will accommodate passengers, equipped with large windows for panoramic views, detaches from the rocket at the top of the flight path. On Wednesday’s test flight, it climbed about 343,000 feet, or 65 miles. Future passengers will be able to experience weightlessness a few minutes before the descent.
Three parachutes are used to slow down the capsule as it returns to Earth. On Wednesday, she traveled at about 16 miles an hour before landing. The flight lasted just over 10 minutes from takeoff to landing.
After the rocket detached from the capsule, it re-started its engine to perform a pinpoint landing at the launch pad. Blue Origin claims New Shepard can land and fly again with «minimal repairs», which is the key to lower cost per run. This was the sixth rocket and capsule flight, the last one in May..
This launch was also the ninth test flight, which included useful research. One of the projects, dubbed OSCAR, will test «gas mixture», which can help NASA understand how to use conventional waste in «propulsion systems or life support systems» in deep space exploration missions.
Also aboard New Shepard were thousands of postcards from children around the world who are part of Blue Origin&# 39; s Club for the Future, a non-profit organization formed to inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard plans to compete directly with Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company founded by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, bringing wealthy passengers into suborbital space.
Virgin Galactic, which recently debuted in the stock market, now plans to launch its first customers on its supersonic space plane by mid-2020. The company already has over 600 clients, most of whom have agreed to pay between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 per seat..
The company is funded exclusively by Jeff Bezos, whose fortune of over $ 100 billion makes him one of the richest people in the world..
Some space industry experts are optimistic about space tourism, suggesting that it could become a major source of income. But critics question whether there is enough demand among the world’s wealthy to make it a sustainable business..
Blue Origin has several other lines of business: the giant rocket New Glenn is being developed, which competes with the well-known companies SpaceX and United Launch Alliance for contracts to launch military equipment. Blue Origin partners with renowned aerospace companies to compete for NASA contracts to build a lunar ship.