Jeff Bezos reaches space in Blue Origin’s first crewed launch

VAN HORN, Texas – Jeff Bezos is the richest person in the world, and now the first to hold the title while he’s not on Earth.

Blue Origin launched it into spaceflight history on Tuesday, with Bezos aboard his company’s first crewed New Shepard rocket, alongside the oldest and youngest people to ever fly into space. .

The capsule carrying the Blue Origin crew accelerated to more than three times the speed of sound before reaching 80 kilometers (or about 262,000 feet above sea level), the border the United States uses to mark the edge of space. The crew will float in microgravity for a few minutes, before the capsule returns and lands under a set of parachutes.

A seat and the inside view of a New Shepard capsule at the edge of space.

Blue Origin

Make history

In addition to his singular net worth, Bezos, 57, is also the only space founder to have completed his company’s first crewed flight. While SpaceX and Virgin Galactic have already launched astronauts, Bezos is the first to participate in the crew’s maiden flight.

Floating beside him: Wally Funk, 82, and Oliver Daemen, 18 – respectively the oldest and youngest humans to ever fly in space – and Bezos’ younger brother Mark, 53.

From left to right: Oliver Daemen, Wally Funk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos.

via @jeffbezos on Instagram

Bezos invited his brother and Aerospace pioneer Funk to join the flight. Daemen was a late addition, as its seat was originally part of a public auction. But the winner of the auction, an anonymous person who offered $ 28 million to fly with Bezos, was unable to make it to the July 20 launch date. Daemen’s father, Joes, CEO of a private equity firm in the Netherlands, was also a bidder in the auction, with Daemen expected to fly on Blue Origin’s second crew launch as a paying passenger . When the mystery bidder pulled out, the company moved Daemen to the first launch.

Tuesday’s launch also marked another historic milestone, with July 20 marking the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Bezos’ spatial vision

The launch of New Shepard is an important step in his progression towards Bezos’ vision. He founded Blue Origin with the aim of creating “a future where millions of people live and work in space for the benefit of the Earth”.

The New Shepard rocket and the capsule that covers it are reusable, capable of launching, landing and relaunching multiple times. The rocket system is in many ways a pioneer for Blue Origin’s other larger-scale projects, such as its New Glenn orbital rocket.

An artist’s illustration of a New Glenn rocket standing on the launch pad in Florida.

Blue Origin

Like New Shepard, the New Glenn rocket thruster is designed to be reusable, with the company expecting each to be able to launch and land 25 times. New Glenn, with a target inaugural launch date of late 2022, stands approximately 320 feet tall and is designed to lift nearly 50 tons of payload into low Earth orbit.

Blue Origin has also developed several engines to power its two rockets, including the BE-3, BE-4 and BE-7 engines.

Blue Origin is testing one of the BE-4 rocket engines the company is developing to launch its New Glenn rocket.

Blue Origin | gif by @thesheetztweetz

Fourth and finally, Blue Origin is working on a crewed lander called the Blue Moon, which the company hopes to someday deliver from astronauts and cargo to the lunar surface.

Billionaires from space

Mural showing Jeff Bezo and his brother Mark Bezo, is seen in Van Horn, Texas, two days before the scheduled launch of Blue Origin’s maiden flight to the edge of space by US billionaire Jeff Bezos and his three teammates, in the neighboring town of Van Horn, Texas, United States, July 18, 2021.

Thom Baur | Reuters

The company’s only direct competitor in the space tourist launch market at the edge of space is Branson’s Virgin Galactic, an industry known as suborbital tourism. SpaceX is set to launch its first private mission in September, dubbed Inspiration4, but Elon Musk’s company is sending its capsules further into space on multi-day flights, in what is known as orbital tourism.

Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic both developed rocket-powered spaceships, but that’s where the similarities end. As Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket is launched vertically from the ground, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system is released into the air and hovers back to Earth for a runway landing, like an airplane.

And, while Blue Origin launches on its own, the Virgin Galactic system is piloted by two pilots. Branson’s company has completed four test space flights to date, but does not plan to start flying paying customers until 2022.

The Blue Origin auction might have fetched $ 28 million, but a seat on a suborbital spacecraft is usually a lot cheaper. Virgin Galactic has historically sold reservations for between $ 200,000 and $ 250,000 per ticket, and more recently billed the Italian Air Force about $ 500,000 per ticket for a training space flight.

The tourism market is a nascent slice of the space economy of over $ 420 billion. Still, his high profile – given the much more exciting human element – means he has a powerful and far-reaching influence over the space industry, with investors often pointing fingers at astronaut flights as sparking enthusiasm for the space industry. the broader implications of the extraterrestrial market.

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