If you were one of the wealthiest people alive, what would you do with your fortune? Amazon founder Jeff Bezos decided to spend his wealth developing a space tourism and transport company: Blue Origin. He has publicly stated that he has invested as much as $1 Billion per year into getting Blue Origin ‘off the ground,’ no pun intended.
In this space tourism company profile, you’ll learn about the history of Blue Origin, what services they’ll offer space tourists, and answers to your other FAQ about Blue Origin.
Blue Origin: Space Tourism Company Details
- Founded: 2000
- Founder: Jeff Bezos
- Headquarters: Kent, Washington
- Launch Facility: Corn Ranch, near Van Horn, West Texas
Blue Origin was founded in 2000 by eCommerce company Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The company is headquartered in Kent, Washington – not far from Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. The company’s motto is Gradatim Ferociter, Latin for “Step by Step, Ferociously.” This principle applies to their mission of developing incremental technologies to help humans achieve sub-orbital and then orbital destinations.
Unlike other space tourism companies – and other space companies in general, Blue Origin has been focused less on winning the 21st Century ‘space race’ and more on doing it in a long-term and sustainable way for their business. As such, Blue Origin has been much more reticent to announce an expected launch date for space tourism flights (unlike Virgin Galactic). In early 2018, they planned to fly passengers by the end of that year. As of the time of publishing, they have still not begun selling tickets for suborbital flights. It is likely that Blue Origin will achieve their first space tourism flight in 2020 or 2021, depending on ongoing flight and launch tests.
Where does Blue Origin Take Off From?
Blue Origin is headquartered in Washington State. However, their launch facility is located on land privately owned by Bezos in West Texas. This land, called ‘Corn Ranch,’ is located outside the town of Van Horn, Texas.
Van Horn is roughly TK from the nearest large city, El Paso. El Paso is also the nearest international airport. This will undoubtedly play a role in visitors attending launches from Corn Ranch.
How Does Blue Origin Work?
Blue Origin is a rocket company, and suborbital space tourism launches are just one part of the company’s business plan. Blue Origin has developed their own engine, the BE-4, as well as two rockets: the New Shepard and the New Glenn.
For space tourism launches, Blue Origin will use their New Shepard rocket to launch a capsule with passengers and crew. Here’s a rough breakdown of the experience:
- You’ll board the passenger capsule atop the New Shepard rocket at the Corn Ranch launch facility*.
- After the rocket launch, you’ll ascend to an altitude above the Kármán line (100km/330,000ft).
- The capsule will then separate from the rocket, and continue upward for a short time before beginning its descent back to earth.
- During this descent period before the parachutes open, you’ll experience microgravity and be able to see the curve of the earth.
- Parachutes on the capsule will deploy and the capsule will safely and softly land back on the Corn Ranch grounds.
- Similarly, the New Shepard rocket will descend to earth and use its engines to perform a soft landing back at a nearby landing pad.
In early tests, it took roughly 11 minutes from launch to capsule landing, including weightlessness time. This is substantially shorter than the 2.5 hour flight offered by Virgin Galactic, but includes roughly the same amount of time to experience weightlessness.
*Blue Origin has not publicly shared details of their pre-launch activities including training.
How High Does Blue Origin Go?
While Blue Origin does not have a designated maximum elevation, their test flights have consistently crossed above 100km (330,000ft) since 2015. As this altitude, also called the Kármán Line, is considered the boundary of space, Blue Origin passengers will be considered commercial astronauts after successfully completing a flight.
How Long Will a Blue Origin Flight Last?
From launch to landing, Blue Origin flights will be relatively short – only 10-15 minutes in duration. This is primarily because rocket launches are substantially more efficient at reaching high altitudes quickly, when compare to other launch vehicles like space planes or balloons.
How Much is a Ticket on Blue Origin?
Blue Origin has never sold tickets for suborbital space tourism flights aboard their New Shepard rocket, so we don’t actually know how much tickets will cost.
It is estimated that initially, tickets will cost between $200,000-$250,000 per person. However, part of the Blue Origin mission is to reduce the cost of human spaceflight, so they will likely focus on reusability to drive down costs and reduce ticket prices quickly.
Has Blue Origin Gone to Space Yet?
At this point, Blue Origin has flown several unmanned test flights between 2014 and 2019 – including one with a mannequin they named ‘Mannequin Skywalker.’ They have not sent any paying passengers to space as of the end of 2019. We’ll be sure to update this guide as soon as they start offering tickets and send their first passengers to space!
Do you have other questions about Blue Origin? Let us know in the comments and we’ll build out this Blue Origin space tourism company profile!
Featured photo courtesy of Blue Origin