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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin To Fly First Space Tourists As Early As April

Now that the sky’s (barely) the limit for stocks, it’s only logical that a select handful of billionaires will soon be able to toast to their newfound wealth in space.

According to CNBC, Jeff Bezos’ private space company aims to fly its first passengers on a ride to the edge of space in a few months. Blue Origin completed the fourteenth test flight of its New Shepard rocket booster and capsule on Thursday . Called NS-14, the successful test flight featured the debut of a new booster and an upgraded capsule.

The flight was the first of two “stable configuration” test flights, people familiar with Blue Origin’s plans told CNBC. Stable configuration means that the company plans to avoid making major changes between this flight and the next.

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And, as CNBC reports, beyond the upgrades, NS-14 also marked one of the last remaining steps before Blue Origin flies its first crew to space. Blue Origin’s next flight, NS-15, will also include a test of loading and unloading the crew, and will take place in late February. 

After that, Bezos – who recently lost the title of world’s richest man to Elon Musk – plans to launch the first crewed flight of the giant penis-shaped rocket six weeks after that, or by early April.

To be sure, it is possible that anyone who purchased the first tickets may have to wait some more:

The New Shepard schedule is ambitious, one of the people cautioned, with the goal of flying every six weeks coming from the company’s top leadership. Blue Origin’s prior mission NS-13 flew in October, after being delayed from September due to a power supply issue – and it also came after a nine-month hiatus between flights

New Shepard is designed to carry people on rides past the edge of space, reaching an altitude of more than 340,000 feet, or more than 100 kilometers. The capsule spends several minutes in zero gravity before returning to Earth, with massive windows to give passengers a view. Both the rockets and the capsules are reusable, with the boosters returning to land vertically and the capsules landing on control of a set of parachutes.

To date, Blue Origin – which was founded in 2000 by Bezos, and now has more than 3,500 employees with its headquarters in Kent, Washington – has launched New Shepard 14 times successfully, and landed the rocket’s booster 13 consecutive times. The company has built four New Shepard boosters in total, the fourth of which launched on Thursday for the first time. Its third booster has flown seven times consecutively and will be used to fly microgravity research payloads for NASA and other customers. New Shepard is a fully autonomous system, with no pilots on board.

Similar to the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX, Bezos personally funds Blue Origin’s development by selling part of his stock in Amazon. As CNBC reminds us, while Bezos has previously said that he sells about $1 billion of Amazon shares annually to fund the space company, Bezos has recently increased his sales of Amazon stock, cashing out more than $10 billion worth in 2020.



Zerohedge

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