Jeff Bezos’ space-travel company Blue Origin is preparing to sell its first tickets to wealthy wannabe space tourists as the company vies with Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to become the first to market in the commercial space-travel industry. According to Reuters, Bezos’ price is an altogether-not-unreasonable $200,000, and if that estimate holds, Bezos will effectively have undercut Branson (who is charging roughly $250,000 for a seat on Virgin Galactic space flights) as the “everything store” founder and CEO takes his “Amazon-ing” pricing strategy to the stars. Despite the tremendous cost of a ticket, analysts expect Blue Origin and its peers will lose millions of dollars per flight, at least in the early years.
BO executives told attendees at a business conference last month that the company plans to begin test flights with human passengers on its New Shepard vessel (the company’s reusable space rocket) in the not-too-distant future. It expects to start selling tickets next year.
Assuming the company succeeds in achieving its ambitious timetable, it could become the first firm in the world to launch a viable space-tourism business. Though right now, each of the three entrepreneurs vying for the title still have a shot of succeeding. While Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already sold about 650 tickets for its first planned space voyages, the company has yet to set a date for its first space flight.
One Blue Origin employee with first-hand knowledge of the pricing plan said the company will start selling tickets in the range of about $200,000 to $300,000. A second employee said tickets would cost a minimum of $200,000. They both spoke on condition of anonymity as the pricing strategy is confidential.
Fortunately for Blue Origin’s investors, the company already has several other businesses, including government contracts for space-exploration projects and satellite launching services.
All three are looking to slash the cost of spaceflight by developing reusable spacecraft, meaning prices for passengers and payloads should drop as launch frequency increases.
While Blue Origin has not disclosed its per-flight operating costs, Teal Group aerospace analyst Marco Caceres estimated each flight could cost the firm about $10 million. With six passengers per trip, that would mean losing millions of dollars per launch, at least initially.
Three sources said Blue’s first passengers are likely to include its own employees, though the company has not selected them yet.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard is designed to autonomously carry six passengers on the more than 62-mile journey above the Earth’s surface into suborbital space. The distance would be high enough to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and to witness the curvature of the planet, according to Reuters. Afterward, a pressurized capsule carrying the passengers will drift back to Earth using parachutes.
It’s worth noting that the expected price of a ticket to ride on Blue Origin’s New Shepard is roughly equivalent to the average national home price. But for the millionaires and billionaires who will no doubt be buying the tickets (and who have accrued most of the wealth created since the crisis), the ticket price is hardly prohibitive. Indeed, we look forward to the not-too-distant future where the preferred honeymoon destination for American’s wealthiest and most well-connected couples is a trip to the outer reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere. The commercialization of space will also create a need for Trump’s Space Force to step up and police the galaxy.
Meanwhile, for an idea of just how much money these companies will lose on the early flights, Musk told reporters last year that a trip around the moon in a SpaceX rocket would cost about the same as a private trip to visit the International Space Station: about $35 million. Musk is reportedly planning on sending two private citizens to the moon on one of SpaceX’s Dragon 2 spacecrafts. Though that mission was tentatively scheduled for “late 2018”, a date for the trip has yet to be released. While the company hasn’t disclosed the price paid by the travelers, we do know one thing: Writing ones name in the history of commercial space flight will be very, very expensive.
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