Amid rising demand for space tourism, Blue Origin CEO Bob Smith has stated that the company will build more of its’ New Shepard rockets to cater to the burgeoning space tourism segment. Stating that the only thing holding Blue Origin back from more spaceflights is a supply shortage of booster rockets.
Blue Origin to fulfil space tourism market demands
Mr Smith said that while the company had launched three manned missions in 2021, it can easily double the number of space missions in 2022.
The space exploration company Blue Origin is owned by Jeff Bezos and successfully sent 14 people to space in 2021. CEO Bob Smith mentioned that the company has to build more rockets in order to fulfil burgeoning demand from the space tourism market.
Utilising the New Shepard rocket and capsule, last year the company launched three crewed missions, and one cargo research trip. The company has plans to double that number in 2022.
The New Shepard rockets launch from a private facility owned by Blue Origin in the Texas desert, and in-flight, reaches well above the 80-kilometre mark that the US recognizes as the boundary to space. Currently, Blue Origin has 2 New Shepard rocket boosters, one for research cargo flights and the other for passenger flights.
While the company has not publicly stated the price for seats on its’ space flights, the only indication of the price of seats in the auction for one of its’ manned mission flights, which sold for $28 million. Jeff Bezos, the founder of the company, previously said the company has sold nearly $100 million worth of tickets, and CEO Bob Smith added that there were thousands of people more in the auction process. By this, the company gauges that there is a very robust demand for space tourism stated Mr Smith.
Blue Origin, as well as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, all launch spacecraft carrying passengers, with each company following a different process of selection and pricing. Virgin Galactic opened ticket sales to the public recently with each ticket starting at $450,000. SpaceX has plans for more flights this year, after the successful launch of the Inspiration 4 flight last year.
Facing concerns about the safety of its’ missions, Blue Origin CEO Smith spoke alongside Blue Origin Vice President Audrey Powers at an FAA conference, with the Powers emphasizing the company’s work on the safety of its New Shepard range of rockets. The company lost several leaders of the New Shepard program during a large exodus of employees. Additionally, an essay published by Blue Origin’s former head of employee communications spoke about safety issues that were then reviewed by the FAA.
While mentioning that the company has put in place a very strong approach to safety on all its’ flights, Mr Smith reiterated that the safety has been proved by the company’s ability to launch three manned missions, and one research flight, all during 2021 alone.
Calling the space tourism market really exciting, Mr Smith said it means that the space industry gets input from other people who haven’t considered this option at all, like William Shatner after his flight to space. Minutes after landing back on Earth, Shatner described his trip as one of the most profound experiences he had ever had.