Blue Origin’s goal is to make these suborbital spaceflights a pop-culture mainstay, offering an exhilarating 10-minute hypersonic flight to welcome guests – hitherto celebrities – and anyone else who can afford it.
The crew will spend a few days of 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 separate from the capsule near the top of its flight path. As the booster rocket returns to Earth for a vertical landing, the manned capsule will continue to rise higher into the atmosphere to more than 60 miles above the surface where the darkness of space is visible and the capsule’s windows will provide panoramic views of Earth.
As gravity begins to pull the capsule toward Earth, passengers will once again experience intense accelerating forces before deploying sets of parachutes to slow the vehicle. Then it will drop to less than 20 mph in the Texas desert.
Because the flights are sub-orbital, meaning they don’t generate enough speed or take the correct trajectory to avoid the momentary downward drift of Earth’s gravity, the entire show will only last about 10 minutes.
Blue Origin is the first airline to begin offering regular flights for sub-orbital space tourism. Its main competitor, Virgin Galactic, made its first manned flight – which included 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 outside its scheduled flight path. The company now says it is undergoing unrelated technical updates and may return to travel later this year.
SpaceX is the only private company to offer flights into orbit. The airline completed its first civilian flight into orbit last September, taking a billionaire and three select colleagues on a three-day trip. And at the end of this month, the company plans to take four paying customers on their way to the International Space Station, which orbits about 200 miles above Earth.
Blue Origin did not have specific updates for BE-4 when it was accessed for comment.
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