Suborbital ventures on the threshold to space

by | Jun 8, 2021 | Blue Origin, Space tourism, Suborbital, Virgin Galactic

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos is to fly on the first crewed mission of the New Shepard, which is scheduled to make its historic suborbital journey on 20 July. He will be joined by his younger brother, Mark, and the winner of an online auction for a third seat on the mission.

Bezos’ announcement, on 7 June, indicates the entrepreneur’s confidence in the technology that he hopes will soon become part of a viable space tourism business. In a brief promotional video, he said the adventure was “a thing I wanted to do all my life”, adding that it would be “meaningful” to be joined by his “best friend”. If the video can be taken at face value, brother Mark was not expecting to be invited, but seemed almost honoured to be included. He admitted to being “awestruck” by the opportunity.

 

The company announced this first crewed launch on 5 May, following many years of development, firstly as a ‘stealth company’ and latterly by live-streaming the launches and landings at its West Texas launch site. The highest bid for the ‘spare seat’ is currently at around US$3.5 million, which is a good deal more than later seats will sell for. Qualified bidders will complete the process on 12 June in a live auction, which could potentially see that bid-price skyrocket to what average punters would consider ridiculous levels. If nothing else, the process and the publicity surrounding it shows that space tourism still provides ‘bragging rights’ for early adopters.

Blue Origin’s closest competitor in the suborbital tourism field is Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, which is still conducting development flights of its air-launched SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity. As of this month, it plans three more flights before commercial operations begin in 2022.

Interestingly, Virgin appears to be pivoting away from pure tourism towards flying research payloads and astronaut training missions. On 3 June, for example, it announced that author, STEM populariser and social media influencer Kellie Gerardi would conduct experiments and technology demonstrations on a future flight. The mission, arranged in affiliation with the International Institute of Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), could include testing biomedical sensors and operating a fluid configuration experiment. Few other details – including flight costs or schedule – were announced, and it is unclear whether this mission will be the first commercial flight or not.

 

Richard Branson had previously announced that, like Bezos, he and some of his family would be first to fly once SpaceShipTwo had completed its development. The company previously received some 600 bookings from budding space tourists but ceased marketing ticket sales when VSS Enterprise crashed in October 2014. Subsequent announcements revealed that sales would resume after Branson had taken his flight, which is expected later this year.

It’s been a long wait, but it looks as if the commercial suborbital business is set to launch soon.

About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to www.seradata.com/spacetrak

Related Articles

Virgin Galactic completes a SpaceShipTwo suborbital test flight

At 1526 GMT on 22 May Virgin Galactic achieved its first successful suborbital crewed mission from Spaceport America, New Mexico. Read more

Was it an abort or launch failure? SpaceShipTwo abandons launch one second after ignition

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity rocket plane was air-dropped on a suborbital test flight from its mother ship WhiteKnightTwo Eve (which Read more

Virgin Atlantic woes leads Sir Richard Branson to sell part of Virgin Group’s stake in Virgin Galactic

With the UK Government about to impose a 14-day quarantine on arriving passengers from most other countries, UK airlines and Read more

Virgin Galactic merger with SCH is heralded by jump in share price (Updated)

In a vote on 23 October, shareholders of SCH (Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp.) approved its merger with upcoming space Read more

Virgin Galactic to merge with already publicly traded Social Capital Hedosophia in US$1.3bn deal

Space tourism operator Virgin Galactic (VG) and the investment partnership, Social Capital Hedosophia (SCH) announced on 8 July that they Read more

SpaceShipTwo makes another successful test flight but still does not beat Karman line for true spaceflight

At 1607 GMT on 15 February a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Unity rocketplaine was air-dropped from its carrier aircraft Over the Read more

Virgin Galactic claimed to have achieved”spaceflight” with SpaceShipTwo – but we will stick with the Karman line thank you

The US Air Force has traditionally awarded its pilots “astronaut wings” if they have exceeded 50 miles (80km) in altitude. Others Read more

Getting higher and higher: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity makes another endo-atmospheric test flight

The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo rocket plane, VSS Unity, has made its third test flight, and the seventh in total for the SpaceShipTwo rocketplane design. Read more

Cookies & Privacy

Click here to read about use of cookies on the website

Categories

Archives