Blue Origin had been a relatively low-profile Seattle space startup. Founded and funded by Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, the company has been focused on developing spacecraft with a vertical takeoff-vertical landing first stage.
Vertical takeoff is the industry’s largest boon. New architecture is constantly streamlined to accommodate for both vertical lift and land designs, and many industry leaders have selected scalable systems capable of adapting to new, multi-sized launches. Already, the New Shepard’s first partner—the Very Big Brother craft—features orbital launch capable of surpassing New Shepard’s capabilities.
The Internet entrepreneur responsible for Blue Origin is also overseeing conducted tests through NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Jeff Bezos, alongside the program, intends to propel privately-owned American crew vehicles beyond the atmosphere.
This week, the Huffington Post featured an interview between aerospace blogger Pam Stucky and Jessica Pieczonka of Blue Origin Communications, on how you may soon be booking a reservation for the rocket ride of a lifetime.
Q: When did Blue Origin begin accepting RSVPs for commercial space flights?
A: Blue Origin offers the adventure of a lifetime with a real rocket ride. On April 29, we completed the first flight of our New Shepard space system, and we’re looking forward to flying frequently and demonstrating the vehicle’s capabilities during our test program. At its completion, we’ll be ready for your flight. If you’re interested in being a future flyer with us and gaining early access to pricing information and ticket sales, be sure to fill out our “Start Your Journey” form. You’ll be the first to know when we’re open for reservations.
Q: The company is working on both suborbital and orbital space flight. Can you tell me a little about what each of those terms means?
A: Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft flies a suborbital arc to space then returns directly to the launch site, rather than going on to orbit around the Earth. A suborbital flight crosses over the boundary of space at an altitude of 100 km. At these altitudes, you experience microgravity and can see the dark of space and the curvature of the Earth. Creative investigators will use the flexible access to this space environment to conduct investigations into microgravity sciences, to test engineering phenomenon in a space environment, or to observe the universe around us.
Q: When will flights begin (what year, month, approximately)?
A: We won’t be publishing a calendar for our test flight program. If you happen to be out in West Texas, though, you may see us climbing to space. Once we start flying astronauts, we will have a place for friends and families to come be part of the launch experience.
Q: Any timeline on orbital flights?
A: Orbital human spaceflights are definitely a part of our long-term plan. The work we are focused on right now with suborbital flights is part of the development path for future vehicles and missions.
Q: How long will each flight (talking again about the suborbital flights) last?
A: The complete flight is approximately 11 minutes of which you will be able to experience the freedom of weightlessness for about 4 minutes.
Q: How many people will be on each flight?
A: Capable of accommodating a solo experience or the ultimate trip for friends and family, Blue Origin’s capsule is made to carry up to six passengers.
Q: Will a person be strapped in the whole time, or will they be able to move freely around the cabin?
A: On Blue Origin’s real rocket ride, you’ll experience the same sights, sounds and sensations as the great early space pioneers. You’re going to lift off from the pad and travel three times the speed of sound. You’ll feel the freedom of weightlessness, and cross over the internationally recognized boundary of space at 100km. There’s enough room in our spacecraft to turn somersaults, and the views out the largest windows in spaceflight history will be awe inspiring. Your flight ends with a classic parachute landing that provides a gentle return home, where you will return as an astronaut.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: No pricing information being released at this time.
Q: From where will they launch?
A: Our suborbital launch site in West Texas is our principal base of New Shepard flights. We may expand to additional locations in the future as we continue to grow and move into orbital flights.
Q: Will people need special training before the flight?
A: We’re designing a full training program in West Texas where astronauts will spend a few days preparing for their flights. They won’t need to go through months of training, though — we’ve designed the experience to be accessible to a wide range of explorers.
Q: Is there a screening process, to determine who can and can’t go?
A: Our ultimate goal is to open up spaceflight to as many people as can safely experience it, and Blue Origin’s spacecraft is designed to be a less demanding environment than traditional government flights. We will work with astronauts and have them talk with their physicians about their own limits in experiencing this adventure of a lifetime. We’re also bound by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, which currently requires astronauts to be over the age of 18.
Q: What are the risks involved?
A: We’ve got an incredible team of world-class experts, including two former NASA astronauts, who have been working methodically on every detail of our spacecraft. From the beginning, our approach has been best described by our company motto — Gradatim Ferociter or “Step by step, ferociously.”
We recently completed the first flight of our New Shepard space system, and we’re looking forward to flying often as part of our test program. During this test program, we’ll test, learn, refine, and test again to demonstrate the vehicle’s capabilities and reliability. As an example, a key mission assurance feature that we’re proud to have is a full envelope escape system, which provides our future astronauts with a further means of protection during their ride to space.
Q: Will the flights have crews? Pilot and flight attendants?
A: We’ve designed a system that is fully autonomous and doesn’t require on-board pilots. Each flight is managed by our experienced Mission Control team.