Blue Origin is about to take a giant leap in its mission for spaceflight as the company prepares to take founder Jeff Bezos to the edge of space.
Now, the company has confirmed the price tag for seats accompanying Bezos. Earlier this month, Blue Origin claimed that it had auctioned a flight seat aboard its New Shepard rocket for $28 million, marking a milestone for the company.
Making Bezos’s Dream a Reality
The flight, which is slated for July 20th, will be the first time Blue Origin is taking humans to space. Thus, the winner of this bid will spend a few moments above the Earth’s atmosphere with Bezos. Other guests include Mark Bezos - the billionaire’s brother - and one other unnamed passenger.
Blue Origin has yet to confirm the name of its winning bidder. During its broadcast, Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s astronaut sales director, confirmed that they were still working through some paperwork with the bid’s winner. So, it would take a little bit of time before their identity can be released.
The bid for the last flight space took place at a Boston facility owned by RR Auction. Several telephone operators stood in line, representing 20 bidders. Blue Origin began bidding for its last flight seat at $4.8 million. However, bids crossed the $20 million mark in a few minutes. The company has confirmed that all proceeds will go to its Club For The Future non-profit.
Progress for New Shepard
Fans of commercial space flight will be familiar with New Shepard. The 60-foot reusable rocket was designed to shoot a capsule into space. The capsule itself holds enough seating space to handle six people, and the entire mission to get into space lasts about ten minutes.
Interestingly, the trip’s $28 million price tag is just about half the price for a regular seat on an orbital mission. SpaceX, Blue Origin’s chief competitor, is getting ready to launch a private astronaut mission later this year. Throughout the mission, four astronauts will spend about three days in orbit.
Blue Origin is also looking to step into orbital spaceflight. The company has tested New Shepard 15 times over the past six years, but it has yet to place a price tag on the passenger seats. The company will most likely be looking into harnessing price data and market research as it hopes to set a price for the seats.
At the video broadcast, Cornell explained that Blue Origin will be reaching out to the most competitive bidders immediately to see who is interested in getting a seat. Blue Origin will also announce the final passenger soon. However, everyone will be interested in finding out whether it will be a Blue Origin employee or one of the company’s competitive bidders.
If anything, this milestone flight represents Bezos’ confidence in his company and the products they’re manufacturing. Blue Origin is looking for leverage as it continues to compete with names like SpaceX and Blue Origin. Success with this flight will mean that the company will be on the forward march.
There is also a lot of excitement surrounding Blue Origin, especially with Bezos resigning from Amazon next month. The billionaire has confirmed that he will focus his efforts on some other endeavors - including (and especially) Blue Origin and The Washington Post. There is renewed confidence that the billionaire visionary will be able to bring the same focus that he used to make Amazon the undisputed leader in online commerce to Blue Origin.
Not Everything is Rosy
While Bezos is set to fly, there are some challenges currently plaguing Blue Origin. This month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that delays with the company’s BE-54 engines could derail the U.S government’s move to stop dependence on foreign-built space engines.
One of the most important rockets being built under the United Launch Alliance (ULA) is the Vulcan Centaur rocket. Described as “America’s Rocket,” the Centaur is expected to replace the current Atlas V that NASA is using. The Centaur is powered by several engines, with the possibility of adding up to six Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) 63XL Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) - designed by Northrop Grumman. The second stage of the rocket uses workhorse RL10C engines.
However, the first stage is set to be powered by BE-4 engines from Blue Origin. The only problem is that the engines have yet to see any use. The BE-4 engines are the same ones that power Blue Origin’s New Glenn, which has now been delayed until the end of 2022.
As the GAO report explained, the engines had suffered technical difficulties related to the required booster and igniter capabilities. So, there is a risk of the engines not getting the right clearance in time. This means that the rocket could switch back to using Atlas V - an engine that isn’t without its own faults.