Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced Wednesday plans to sell 1 billion dollars of Amazon stock annually to fund his spaceflight company Blue Origin, at the 33rd Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. Bezos also presented their ‘New Shepard’ reusable rocket booster and a full-scale mockup of the capsule the company plans to use to offer tourists a view of earth from orbit.
Bezos also announced plans to develop a still larger booster rocket, called New Glenn, able to put satellites, and eventually manned capsules, into orbit. Bezos said that project will cost about $2.5 billion. The rocket’s first flight is expected in 2020, and Bezos also announced Blue Origin’s first paying customer, the satellite company Eutelstat.
The announcement comes on the heels of a successful launch of a reusable booster rocket by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company. Musk and Bezos have both identified the reusable boosters as the next crucial step towards lowering the prohibitive costs of spaceflight. Bezos said such advances are a step towards a “golden age of space exploration.”
“If we can make access to space low-cost, then entrepreneurs will be unleashed,” Bezos added. “You will see creativity, you will see dynamism, you will see the same thing in space that I’ve witnessed on the internet in the last 20 years.”
Bezos declined to say when New Shepard would undergo its next round of test flights, but did suggest possible tourist trips as soon as next year. Bezos has said in the past that he is wary of timetables for the company’s commercial spaceflight.
“It’s a mistake to race to a deadline when you’re talking about a flying vehicle, especially one that you’re going to put people on. I still think we can do commercial paying passengers in 2018,” he said.
The New Shepard rocket would carry a capsule designed for six passengers, who would take trips lasting 10 to 11 minutes. The capsule has a diameter of about 12 feet, and will offer the largest windows in space, according to Blue Origin, account for about one third of the dome’s surface area. The capsule would be launched to just above the Karman line, 62 miles above sea level, where passengers officially enter into space.
They will experience four to five minutes of weightlessness, followed by a descent during which they will experience 5 Gs, before parachuting down into West Texas. The capsule would slow to 3 miles per hour before touching down. The capsule, as well as the booster, would be reusable.
“Reusability is the key to getting millions of people living and working in space,” Bezos added.