The space firm established by Jeff Bezos has announced that its first suborbital manned flight will take place on 20 July 2021. One seat is being sold at auction and the amount will benefit a foundation which encourages scientific careers.
The creator of online sales giant, Amazon, the American billionaire Jeff Bezos founded Blue Origin in 2000. This space company has developed an orbital launcher called New Glenn (with facilities in Florida) and a smaller one named New Shepard based in Texas. The latter is aimed at the suborbital space tourism market.
NEW SHEPARD: RE-USABLE LAUNCHER AND CAPSULE
The principle of suborbital flight is to go through the border of space (100 km is the internationally recognised standard), which allows passengers to see the curvature of the Earth surmounted by a dark sky, even in the daytime, and enjoy a few minutes of weightlessness. The vessel does not go into orbit.
While its competitor Virgin Galactic is banking on a rocket-aircraft released at altitude by a carrier aircraft, Blue Origin has chosen the more classic solution of a launcher with a capsule on top. Named New Shepard (in homage to American astronaut Alan Shepard who made a suborbital flight before walking on the Moon), this system is innovative in being completely re-usable (launcher and capsule). Below, a video presenting Blue Origin.
In addition to the onboard scientific experiments market (due to time spent in weightlessness), Blue Origin is therefore aiming for suborbital tourism with a service which concentrates an extraordinary experience typical of space into 11 minutes. The going rate is expected to be counted in hundreds of thousands of dollars. Jeff Bezos’ firm has been flying the New Shepard since 2015 and, after a first trial where the launcher failed, has accumulated fourteen successful unmanned missions. In view of this success, the question was when the first manned flight would take place. The answer came on 5 May.
5 MAY AND 20 JULY: SYMBOLIC DATES
The date was not chosen at random: 5 May 2021 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Freedom 7 capsule’s flight, with Alan Shepard on board, becoming the first American in space (by exceeding 100 km of altitude). Shortly after Gagarin’s orbit on 12 April 1961, the suborbital nature of the mission meant that the United States didn’t catch up on the Soviet lead, but it was a positive event for the country.
Alan Shepard, suborbital, 5 May, New Shepard: the symbolism is obvious. The same rationale is continued with the date of 20 July for the first flight of a New Shepard with people on board. This, of course, was the day of mankind’s first footsteps on the Moon on the Apollo 11 mission (US time zone).
For this inaugural manned mission, Blue Origin has let it be known that a seat will be available and that, to obtain it, you have to take part in an online auction by 19 May.
On 12 June, the offers received will be revealed and it will be possible to bid higher on a live web event. The winning amount will be paid to the Club for the Future Foundation of Blue Origin which helps young people pursuing scientific careers.