The FAA has approved Blue Origin’s maiden crewed rocket voyage set for July 20th with the company’s founder Jeff Bezos aboard. The flight aboard the New Shepard will take Bezos, his brother Mark, aviation pioneer Wally Funk and three other passengers to Kármán line, just beyond the edge of space.
To get the certification, Blue Origin had to verify New Shepard’s hardware and software operation during its NS-15 test flight conducted on April 14th, 2021. If all goes to plan, the New Shepard booster and capsule with astronauts aboard will blast off to an altitude beyond 100 kilometers (62 miles). The booster will eventually separate from the capsule and attempt to land Earth, while the capsule with passengers aboard will descend to the ground carried by a triple parachute system.
Rival Richard Branson beat Bezos to be the first billionaire in space aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. However, Blue Origin claimed that Virgin Galactic didn’t truly go to space as it “only” went 57 miles up and didn’t cross the Kármán line considered by many to be the edge of space.
In any case, neither company will be taking passengers into orbit, unlike SpaceX, which is set to do a true orbital flight with passengers aboard later this year. The prices for the different systems are also vastly different: Virgin Galactic’s customers pay $250,000 for a ticket to the edge of space, Blue Origin space tourists are expected to pay around $500,000 and SpaceX clients will pay $55 million for a 10-day mission to the ISS.
However, a seat to fly with Jeff Bezos on the maiden Blue Horizon flight sold at auction for $28 million to a buyer expected to be named soon. That’s a lot for a flight expected to last about 10 minutes, but it should be quite a ride.