In the highly competitive race to offer commercial space flights, Blue Origin is looking to move on from the stage of unmanned to manned test flights. The company founded by Jeff Bezos in 2000 recently announced that it could begin selling tickets from 2019 onwards, but as yet no date for take-off has been given.
Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder and president Jeff Bezos, is looking to sell tickets for manned space flights. No date has as yet been set for the first commercial flights, but they could be "soon" according to the vice-president of the company Rob Meyerson. The price of the tickets was not mentioned either, but he did announce 2019 as the date when sales would begin, according to website Numerama.
Eight successful test flights
This information however gives no concrete indication of flight times, since there could be years between the tickets becoming available and the first take-off of manned shuttles.
One thing is certain, however – Blue Origin is pulling out all the stops to get to the symbolic stage of being able to offer passengers voyages into space on what at the moment are merely unmanned tests. The New Shepard vehicle designed by engineers from the company founded in 2000 has already carried out eight such test flights.
Keen to move on to the next stage
These involve the craft being sent up to an altitude of over 100 kilometres before coming back to earth in a controlled landing process. This height is the limit that has been set to determine where the atmosphere ends and space begins. Now that these unmanned space tests have been carried out without incident, Blue Origin believes that it has perfected the process and intends to have passengers on board.
They are particularly keen since the competition is also stepping up the pace in an attempt to organise commercial space flights. There is particular pressure from Virgin Galactic, a subsidiary of billionaire Richard Branson’s group that was founded in 2004. At the end of May, the company ran a successful second airborne test, and while the altitude of 35 kilometres was below the level reached by New Shepard, the test of the Virgin Galactic craft had one significant advantage over that of its rival – it was manned.
Competition hotting up
Part of the company’s activities are located in a former military base in California’s Mojave Desert. Almost two dozen start-ups active in the space voyage sector also use this site, known as Mojave Air and Space Port, for their tests. This pool of companies are all rivals to Blue Origin, with one of them ¬– Vulcan Aerospace – being a company created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
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