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13 Jul 2018

You can soon go to space for $200,000: Details here

Commercial space travel just moved one step closer to reality.

While sci-fi visions of traversing the vastness of space is still a while away, starting next year, willing customers will be able to take flights aboard Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin's New Shepard space vehicle.

Of course, the flights, which will take passengers more than a 100km above Earth, won't come cheap.

Here's more.

In context

Jeff Bezos-owned Blue Origin's plans for commercial spaceflight

New Shepard

What a flight aboard the New Shepard will be like

The New Shepard space vehicle is designed to autonomously fly six passengers to an altitude of over 100km above Earth into suborbital space.

At that altitude, the passengers will be able to see the curvature of the Earth via the New Shepard's six observation windows, which are thrice the size of Boeing 747 windows.

Passengers will also experience a few minutes of weightlessness.


New Shepard is yet to be tested with human passengers

According to information given by Blue Origin executives at a business conference last month, the rocket company is planning test flights aboard the New Shepard soon, and plans to start selling tickets some time next year.

Notably, Blue Origin has already conducted eight test flights of the VTOL-capable New Shepard. Two of these included a test dummy called 'Mannequin Skywalker', but none involved humans.

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Blue Origin has been discreet about ticket prices


Blue Origin has been discreet about ticket prices

Notably, while Blue Origin has been rather transparent about the New Shepard's general design (which it has made public), the Jeff Bezos-owned space company has been discreet about production status and proposed ticket prices.

In May, Jeff Bezos had said that ticket prices were yet to be decided, and Blue Origin representatives have not been particularly receptive to questions regarding the same.


Reportedly, tickets to cost between $200,000-300,000

However, now, two Blue Origin employees have reportedly shed some light on ticket prices, on the condition of anonymity.

One employee, with first-hand knowledge of the issue said that tickets would cost between $200,000-300,000. Another employee said that the minimum cost for a ticket would be $200,000.

Whether this pricing will generate enough demand for the realization of Bezos' vision remains to be seen.

The race for commercial spaceflight supremacy


The race for commercial spaceflight supremacy

Blue Origin, founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in 2000, is trying to carve out a niche for commercialized civilian spaceflight in the global space economy alongside satellite services and government exploration projects, which are already collectively worth $300bn a year.

Yet, Bezos isn't the only one with this vision and is facing competition from the likes of Elon Musk and Richard Branson.

Virgin Galactic

Branson's Virgin Galactic has already seen keen interest

Notably, Branson-owned Virgin Galactic has already sold tickets for its upcoming spaceflight, the date for which hasn't been announced.

Priced at $250,000, Virgin Galactic's tickets for its VSS Unity spacecraft saw interest from hundreds, and some, including celebrities like Tom Hanks, Ashton Kutcher, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry, and even the late Stephen Hawking, have already submitted their deposits.


SpaceX seems to be more focused on space exploration

Unlike Blue Origin and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, which is a short form for space exploration, seems to be more inclined to just that - space exploration.

SpaceX, founded in 2002, says that its ultimate goal is to help humanity expand beyond Earth and live on other planets.

Consequently, commercial spaceflight seems to have taken a backseat for SpaceX, at least for now.

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