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Blue Origin to launch tourists into space from next year

Image credit: reuters

Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is planning to start charging passengers for trips into space as early as next year.

The flights are expected to cost around $200,000 to $300,000 (£228,570) according to two sources speaking to Reuters.

While space tourism is currently a very niche and expensive hobby, several companies are planning to start offering flights at considerably lower prices, albeit still above the price most could afford to pay.

Blue Origin’s main competition on this front is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic which unveiled plans to launch its suborbital flights from a spaceport in Italy earlier this week. 

That company is set to charge around $250,000 for its space trips, slap bang in the middle of Blue Origin’s estimates.

Executives at Blue Origin told a business conference last month they planned test flights with passengers on the New Shepard soon, and to start selling tickets next year.

The company, based about 32km south of Seattle, has made public the general design of the vehicle - comprising a launch rocket and detachable passenger capsule - but has been tight-lipped on production status and ticket prices until now.

While successful, its achievements have often been overshadowed by SpaceX, run by Tesla founder Elon Musk, for a number of significant missions including the launch of the Falcon Heavy in February which saw two side boosters landing simultaneously back on Earth after delivering cargo into space. 

The New Shepard is designed to autonomously fly six passengers more than 100km above Earth into suborbital space, high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before the pressurised capsule returns to earth under parachutes.

The capsule features six observation windows Blue Origin says are nearly three times as tall as those on a Boeing 747 jetliner.

Blue Origin has completed eight test flights of the vertical take-off and landing New Shepard from its launchpad in Texas, but none with passengers aboard. Two flights have included a test dummy the company calls “Mannequin Skywalker.”

The company will do the first test in space of its capsule escape system, which propels the crew to safety should the booster explode, “within weeks,” one of the employees said.

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