May 8 (BBC) – Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos is now ready to take people into space.
The US entrepreneur’s Blue Origin company says it will launch a crew aboard its New Shepard rocket and capsule system on 20 July.
The astronauts are likely to include company personnel, but one seat is being auctioned online.
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New Shepard’s flights are sub-orbital. They’re designed to take passengers on a straight up-and-down trip that briefly goes above 100km (62 miles).
This is the so-called Kármán Line, which has been designated by broad international agreement as the starting point of space.
“Only 569 people have ever been over the Kármán Line. With our New Shepard vehicle, we’re about to change that and change it dramatically,” said Ariane Cornell, Blue Origin’s director of astronaut sales.
She declined to comment on whether Mr Bezos himself might be on the 20 July flight.
Blue Origin’s announcement is further evidence of a resurgence in space tourism after a gap of almost 12 years.
Mr Bezos’s proposition is just one of several now open to the super wealthy. Rival businessman Elon Musk is expected to launch one of his SpaceX Dragonships in the autumn with an all-civilian crew aboard. It will go orbital; the capsule will stay up for several days.
At 18m in height and 4m wide, New Shepard is a fully reusable, vertical takeoff, vertical landing (VTVL) space vehicle.