Blue Origin’s goal is to make these suborbital spaceflights a mainstay of pop culture, giving an exhilarating 10-minute hypersonic flight to welcome guests – who were hitherto celebrities – and anyone else who could afford it.
The crew will spend a few days training at Blue Origin’s facilities in West Texas prior to flight day, where they will board the New Shepard crew capsule atop the rocket. After takeoff, the missile will exceed the speed of sound, and will separate from the capsule near the top of its flight path. As the booster rocket returns toward Earth for an upright landing, the manned capsule will continue to rise higher into the atmosphere to more than 60 miles above the surface where the blackness of space is visible and the capsule’s windows will provide panoramic views of Earth.
As gravity begins to pull the capsule back toward the ground, occupants will once again experience intense acceleration forces before deploying sets of parachutes to slow the vehicle down. Then it will descend at less than 20 mph in the Texas desert.
Since the flights are sub-orbital—meaning they don’t generate enough speed or take the correct trajectory to avoid instantaneous drift downward by Earth’s gravity—the entire show will only last about 10 minutes.
Blue Origin is the first company to begin offering regular sub-orbital space tourism flights. Its main competitor, Virgin Galactic, had made its first manned flight – which included its founder Richard Branson – before Bezos’ flight last July. But Virgin Galactic did not follow up that flight with another manned flight after it was later revealed that the company’s space plane had moved off its scheduled flight path. The company now says it is undergoing unrelated technology updates and may return to the flight later this year.
SpaceX is the only private company to offer flights into orbit. The company completed its first-ever civilian flight into orbit last September, taking a billionaire and three select colleagues on a three-day flight. And later this month, the company plans to take four paying customers on a trip to the International Space Station, which orbits about 200 miles above Earth.
Blue Origin did not have specific updates to the BE-4 when reached for comment.