The interior of the Blue Origin capsule model in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the US, April 5 2017. Picture: REUTERS/ISAIAH J DOWNING
The interior of the Blue Origin capsule model in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the US, April 5 2017. Picture: REUTERS/ISAIAH J DOWNING

Blue Origin, the rocket maker founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has set July 20 for its first mission carrying people to space.

The company plans to auction off one seat on its New Shepard rocket for the summer mission, according to information posted on its website on Wednesday. The money from the winning bid will be donated to Blue Origin’s foundation, Club for the Future, which promotes math and science education.

The plans signal progress for Blue Origin as it vies with Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies and Richard Branson-backed Virgin Galactic Holdings  to create a market for tourism rides into space. While Bezos’s rocket maker has yet to carry people, Bezos hinted on social media after an April test flight that the time for such a milestone was nearing.

Details of the first crewed trip are unknown, but Blue Origin eventually plans to carry six astronauts on 11-minute flights that will cross the Karman line, a space border at an altitude of 100km. A crew capsule separates during flight, then lands with parachutes a few miles from the reusable New Shepard rocket. The New Shepard landed successfully at Blue Origin’s West Texas launch area in April in its 15th test flight.

Virgin Galactic has about 600 customers who have paid as much as $250,000 apiece for a future ride to space. The company stopped taking reservations in late 2018 but plans to resume later this year after it ferries Branson to suborbital space on one of its first flights. Executives have said future pricing is likely to be higher, given the company’s assessment of demand.

SpaceX is also preparing for paying customers. As soon as September, Musk’s company will fly technology entrepreneur Jared Isaacman and three others on a multiday mission to low-Earth orbit. The trip was designed to raise money and awareness for St  Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Musk’s rocket maker also will fly four men to the International Space Station next year on a private mission for Axiom Space Inc.

Bloomberg News. For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

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