Space tourism could soon go mainstream as the technology improves and costs fall… fueling what UBS estimates to be a $3 billion annual tourism market by 2030.
The new era of private commercial space travel will be the preserve of millionaires… and notably three billionaire enterprenuers: Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk.
Here’s how their efforts compare in the race to be first, and stay the course.
Bezos, Branson and Musk have been investing billions of dollars in their space startups – and it’ll also cost a pretty penny to be part of it.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic is reported to have more than 600 ticket reservations already – priced at $250,000. It expects to begin a full commercial service in 2022 – and eventually hopes to slash the ticket price to around $40,000.
Bezos’ Blue Origin is planning to charge passengers between $200,000 and $300,000 for the ride, company insiders told Reuters in 2018. Not cheap, but a lot cheaper than the cost of the auctioned spare seat on the first Blue Origin flight. That went for $28 million.
Musk’s SpaceX has already taken a crew to the International Space Station, and is due to send an all-civilian crew into orbit in September. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is due to fly around the moon with in SpaceX’s forthcoming Starship rocket in 2023.
Virgin Galactic’s reusable SpaceShip Two system will see its VSS Unity spaceplane lifted to altitude by a large carrier aircraft called VMS Eve before separating.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket-and-capsule combo shoots into suborbital space before separating. The rocket section returns to the launchpad with the pressurized capsule faling back to earth under parachutes. It features six observation windows – the largest ever used in space.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule sits atop a reusable Falcon rocket to reach space but it comes with more modest porthole windows to watch the world go by.
Virgin Galactic’s spaceplane can hold six passengers: two crew and four mission specialists.
Blue Origin’s autonomous craft can take six passengers and flies autonomously. Future known clients include singer Justin Bieber.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule is capable of carrying up to 7 people, but the flights planned so far have a crew of just four.
Virgin Galactic boasts a flight time of around 90 minutes from take-off to landing including several minutes of weightlessness.
Blue Origin’s capsule suborbital flight is around 10 minutes after separation. Again, those on board experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the curvature of the planet before returning to earth.
The Space-X missions are expected to last three to four days from launch to splashdown.
Typical of Branson’s ventures, Virgin Galactic is publicly funded. Its shares peaked at almost $60 following FAA approval in June 2021.
Blue Origin is privately owned, with Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos previously indicating he would sell around $1 billion in Amazon stock annually to fund the venture.
SpaceX is also privately owned and has raised billions in successive funding rounds. Key investors include Alphabet and Fidelity. Musk says fees charged for SpaceX’s charter flights will go toward eventual missions to the moon and Mars.
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