Blue Origin Launches First Space Flight with Tourists on Board Next July

Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos, will launch a rocket into space with passengers on board for the first time in July, the company said on Wednesday. One seat on the flight, which will carry six astronauts on a short jaunt to the edge of outer space, is up for auction. The first astronaut flight of New Shepard, a suborbital spacecraft, is scheduled for July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

We’ve spent years testing, so we’re ready,” Ariane Cornell, director of astronaut sales for Blue Origin, said at a news conference on Wednesday. Mr. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, also started Blue Origin in 2000. Like other billionaires who have invested in spaceflight, he has stated broad goals for humanity’s expansion around the solar system, imagining millions of people eventually living and working in space.

For now, most of Blue Origin’s business has stayed closer to Earth. It builds and sells rocket engines to another rocket company, United Launch Alliance. A rocket that would lift cargo to orbit is not expected to be ready for years, and the company recently lost a competition with SpaceX for a contract to build a moon lander for NASA’s astronauts (it has protested the award). Customers have also paid to fly science experiments for NASA and private scientists during test flights of the New Shepard spacecraft.

It has been preparing for years for the start of its space tourism program, which would offer suborbital trips to what is considered the boundary of outer space, 62 miles above Earth. A competitor,Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, also plans to fly space tourists on suborbital jaunts. Virgin Galactic’s space plane, known as SpaceShipTwo, is flown by two pilots, so it has carried people to space on test flights, but no paying passengers yet. Blue Origin’s tourist rocket is named after Alan Shepard, the first American to go to space. It has undergone 15 test flights, none of which had passengers aboard. Ahead of the latest test, in April, a crew rehearsed boarding and exiting the capsule.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/

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