On Tuesday, Blue Origin is launching Jeff Bezos to space. Here's what you need to know.
The capsule and rocket
The nascent market for space tourism
In April, Blue Origin stated that it would start selling tickets for future rides on New Shepard. However, months later, despite the firm claiming that members of the recent public auction had purchased seats, with Daemen being the first to board, Blue Origin has failed to announce how much tickets cost. So far, the only public clue is the extraordinary auction-inflated price of $28 million per ticket.
Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is the company's only direct competitor in the market for launching space passengers to the edge of space, a sector known as suborbital tourism. Although SpaceX is planning to fly Inspiration4, its first private mission, in September, Elon Musk's business sends its capsules further into space on multi-day journeys, a practise known as orbital tourism.
Both Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic have been working on rocket-powered spacecraft, but the similarities end there. While Blue Origin's New Shepard rocket takes off vertically from the ground, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo system is released in mid-flight and glides back to Earth for a runway touchdown.
While Blue Origin takes off on its own, the Virgin Galactic system is piloted by two pilots. Branson's business has performed four test spaceflights so far, but it won't start flying paying clients until 2022.
Although Blue Origin's auction brought nearly $28 million, a ticket on a suborbital spaceship is normally far cheaper. Virgin Galactic had previously charged the Italian Air Force over $500,000 per ticket for a training journey.
NASA pays SpaceX around $55 million per seat for spaceflights to the International Space Station, making Musk's orbital trips more expensive than suborbital ones.
The tourism industry is a small part of the $420 billion space economy. Yet, because of its high visibility — and the considerably more fascinating human element — it has a significant and widespread influence on the space economy, with investors frequently citing astronaut trips as a source of excitement about the extraterrestrial marketplace's broader implications.
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